Once you arrive in South Korea you will no doubt hear about the Dokdo Island controversy. Dokdo or the Liancourt Rocks is a disputed section of land in the East Sea or Sea of Japan (another debate for another time). No one disputes that Korea was the first to find the island; however, Japan states that while Korea found them, Japan was the first to set foot on them. Currently Korea owns the land and has placed public works and other utilities on the island. Japan still argues that the land is theirs but, Korea is its current custodian.
Since being here I have always thought that this argument was strange; however, I had the chance to have a serious conversation with a colleague and no understand why Dokdo is so important to Koreans. My friend admits that the island as a piece of land is rather worthless but, wants me to know it really is not the land that is important but the fishing rights that surround the island. If Korea were to give up its claim to the islands they would lose a significant section of water in which to fish in. There is another island to the south that is owned by Japan and while it is very near Korea, Korea has never disputed Japan’s claim to the property. This other island gives Japan a large area to fish in. If Korea loses the Dokdo Island then the small area that they fish in becomes increasingly small. A large portion of Korean’s diet is seafood.
Many westerners think that the argument is for the land itself, which could not be farther from the truth. It all boils down to the fishing rights and losing a great swath of sea that could cripple Korea’s economy and a large portion of the country’s food sources. Another surprising fact is that North Korea is in support of South Korea’s claim.