Takeshima Day: Govt Should Urge S. Korea to Follow Intl Law to Solve Territorial Issue

Relations between Japan and South Korea have been improving since the bilateral summit in March last year, but no progress can be seen regarding the Takeshima Islands, which are illegally occupied by South Korea. The Japanese government should persistently urge South Korea to move toward a peaceful resolution.

A memorial ceremony organized by the Shimane prefectural government and other entities was to be held in Matsue today [Feb. 22], which is Takeshima Day. The event commemorates Feb. 22, 1905, the date when the prefectural government incorporated Takeshima into the prefecture based on a cabinet decision by the Meiji government. Shojiro Hiranuma, a parliamentary vice minister of the Cabinet Office, was scheduled to attend this year’s ceremony as a representative of the central government.

Japan established its territorial rights to Takeshima in the mid-17th century, during the Edo period (1603-1867). The 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty also confirmed that the islands are the territory of Japan. Takeshima is part of Japan’s inherent territory, both historically and under international law.

Last year, the Japan Institute of International Affairs confirmed that the islands were shown as Takeshima on a chart of the waters around Japan, which was created by the former Imperial Japanese Navy in 1905. It is believed that the description was made following the incorporation of the islands into Shimane Prefecture.

The chart was sold in Japan from that time, and it can be said that awareness of the existence of Takeshima became widespread. It is significant to reinforce Japan’s claims through further historical research.

The Japanese government has repeatedly proposed to South Korea that the two sides refer the Takeshima issue to the International Court of Justice, but South Korea has refused each time. It is hoped that Japan will request the administration of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to resolve the issue based on international law.

It is also necessary to focus on awareness-raising activities to increase public interest in Japan’s territory.

The improvement in Japan-South Korea relations is largely due to the fact that the Yoon administration presented a solution last year to the lawsuits involving former wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula, in which a South Korean foundation will pay an amount equivalent to compensation on behalf of Japanese companies involved.

However, a South Korean court paid ¥6.7 million as “compensation” to a South Korean man, who won a wartime labor case against Hitachi Zosen Corp. late last year, from a deposit that the Japanese firm had deposited with the court.

The Japanese government had asked involved companies not to deposit money in order to avoid concrete harm to them. However, in 2019, Hitachi Zosen was pressured by a South Korean court to make the deposit to avoid having its assets seized, and the company agreed to do so.

In the first place, the ruling on compensation from Hitachi Zosen is contrary to the 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Cooperation between Japan and the Republic of Korea, which stipulates that the issue of claims between Japan and South Korea “is settled completely and finally.” Moreover, the court’s decision to pay the deposited money to the plaintiff disregards the solution decided by the Yoon administration.

If the situation is left unchecked, Japan-South Korea relations will deteriorate once again. The Japanese government needs to urge the South Korean government to not only resolve the disadvantage at which Japanese companies have been placed, but also thoroughly implement the Yoon administration’s solution.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 22, 2024)