S. Korea Expresses Concern over U.S. Name Change of Dokdo Islets

South Korea expressed concern on July 27,2008 over a recent U.S. decision to rename its easternmost islets of Dokdo in favor of Japan and ordered its embassy in Washington to check how it happened.

Public anger has risen in South Korea over Japan’s renewed territorial claim to Dokdo in the East Sea. South Korean officials are worried that the U.S. move may undermine its ownership of the islets.

“Foreign Minister Yu Myung-Hwan ordered the embassy in Washington to deliver our concern to the United States” over the U.S. decision on Dokdo,” Yonhap News quoted Moon Tae-Young, the ministry spokesman, as having told reporters.

Yu was also quoted by Moon as saying, “It is important to learn how it happened.” Seoul found on July 26 that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names, a federal naming agency, has recently revised its description of Dokdo to adopt an uninvolved position on the islets.

The board’s Web site had previously said that the Liancourt Rocks, another name for Dokdo, were under South Korea’s control. It now names the islets an area of “undesignated sovereignty.” The exact date of the change could not be immediately confirmed.

The name Liancourt Rocks was taken from a French whaling ship that first introduced the islets to Europe in the 19th century.

President Lee Myung-Bak, who is away on vacation, was enraged about the U.S. decision, a senior official at the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae said, requesting anonymity. Presidential aides returned from their vacation to hold emergency meetings, he said.

“President Lee became greatly enraged when he was briefed on the Dokdo issue” on Sunday, the official told Yonhap News Agency by telephone. “The president ordered (officials) to find out the truth and prepare for measures to cope with it.”

South Korea has adopted a more aggressive stance on the islets since Japan’s Education Ministry earlier this month instructed schoolteachers to teach students that the islets are Japanese territory.

Seoul has recalled its ambassador to Japan in protest. In a meeting with aides on July 27, Yu also ordered the creation of a task force in his ministry to monitor moves by other countries to re-name or modify the status of the islets in favor of Japan, ministry officials said.

Apparently as a result of Japanese lobbying, online world encyclopedias are increasingly adopting the name of the French ship to refer to Dokdo rather than the indigenous Korean name, according to the Korean non-governmental organization, the Voluntary Agency Network of Korea, also known by its acronym VANK.

The number of Web sites using the name Liancourt Rocks to refer to Dokdo has surged to 38,500 in July, up from 32,500 in May and 22,000 in October 2005, it said.

Opposition political parties stepped up their offensive against the government.

“Until the situation has come to this stage, what did the government do?” Rep. Choi Jae-Sung, spokesman for the main opposition Democratic Party, said of the changed U.S. description of the islets.

“The United States, which President Lee Myung-Bak visited for the first time after his election, transformed Dokdo into an undesignated rock without saying a word to its strategic ally Korea,” Rep. Park Sun-Young, spokeswoman for the conservative opposition Liberty Forward Party, commented sarcastically.

North Korea also criticized Japan’s move to reinforce its claim to Dokdo.

Pyongyang “wouldn’t accept Japan’s usurpative act over Korean territory,” Ri Kwang-Hi, a history scholar at KimIlsung University, said on the North’s Web site, Uriminzokkiri. “Japan will be reduced to a mere skeleton by severe punishment of the Korean people if it fails to contain its aggression and tries to usurp Dokdo,” he said.

[The Seoul Times] | Original News @ HERE
Date : 2008/07/28

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