Takeshima Issue: Unforgivable Atrocity Committed by the government of South Korea

January 18, 1952-a date which will live in infamy-Japan was suddenly and deliberately invaded by the South Koreans under the command of South Korea president Syngman Rhee, so as to illegally occupy Takeshima islets by making a groundless and irrational territorial claim over those islets almost three months before San Francisco Peace Agreement (signed on September 8, 1951) became effective on April 28, 1952.

The invasion of Takeshima and its continued occupation has been one of the major irritants often regarded as a causative factor largely responsible for deterioration of relations between Japan and South Korea in the last decades despite Japan and her people’s deep sympathy expressed in the form of economic and technical assistance toward the Korean population for its unfortunate plights often indirectly and directly resulted from Russian and Chinese interferences with the Korean peninsula.

The invasion of Takeshima began with unilateral establishment of Syngman Rhee Line on January 18, 1952. 1. Syngman Rhee Line (李承晩ライン) unilaterally established by South Korea in defiance of international laws and U.S. warnings. http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/takeshima/installation.html - Installation of "Syngman Rhee Line" and Illegal Occupation of Takeshima by the Republic of Korea.

The invasion and continued occupation is a clear violation of San Francisco Peace Treaty in which Article 2 of Chapter II Territory stipulates that (a) Japan recognizing the independence of Korea, renounces all right, title and claim to Korea, including the islands of Quelpart, Port Hamilton and Dagelet. In (a) of Article 2, Quelpart Island (Jejudo, 제주도, 済州島), Port Hamilton (Geomun-do, 거문도,  巨文島), and Dagelet (Ulleungdo, 울릉도, 鬱陵島) are specifically mentioned. It is so clear to anyone that Takeshima islets have never been included in a list of the islands when Japan renounced all right, title and claim to Korea. http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/takeshima/sanfrancisco.pdf -Treaty of Peace with Japan, Chapter II Territory, Article 2.

Today, I would like to focus on one of the unforgivable atrocities the government of South Korea committed in a futile attempt to distort a number of historical facts related to Japan’s unalterable position over Takeshima islets. 

On January 22, 1953, two fishing vessels respectively named “Daiichi Daihou Maru and Daini Daihou Maru of Taihou Fisheries Company left Fukuoka, Japan for fishing operations. By February 4, they arrived at No. 284 fishing zone in international waters near Jeju Island.

When two Japanese fishing vessels operating in the designated fishing zone at around 7:00 a.m. the same day, two S. Korean fishing vessels (第一昌運号 2 and第二昌運号 2 ) were spotted approaching the Japanese fishing vessels. They soon came close to the Japanese fishing vessels. And, then S. Korean crews greeted Japanese crews by saying “How’s your fishing going today?” They just passed by and stopped nearby, watching the Japanese fishing vessels.

As soon as Daiichi Daihou Maru began pulling fishing net up, the S. Korean vessels (in fact disguised as the fishing vessels manned by military personnel, etc.) at the distance of 30 meters from the stern of the Japanese fishing vessels opened firing automatic rifles at Daiichi Daihou Maru. Two Japanese fishing vessels were trying to escape their sudden and vicious attack on them but both of them were soon captured by 8:30 a.m. since the South Koreans were intensely and fiercely firing at them.

One of chief fishermen was hit in the head with a bullet fired from one of the automatic rifles and fell unconscious. Then, they told Daiichi Daihou Maru and Daiini Daihou Maru to head to Jeju Island. They arrived at Hanlin port, Jeju Island at 11:30 a.m. The Japanese crews were transferred to the S. Korean police authority that soon confiscated private belongings, properties, equipment, etc. When at the police authority, the Japanese crews told them that one of their crews was seriously injured. He was then taken to a hospital which one could hardly call "hospital" since it had no wards, equipment, instruments, etc. A Korean doctor just refused to extend any medical care to him. The Japanese fishing crews requested the police authority to find a hospital for him but they just rejected their request by stating “We are just carrying out our duty in accordance with an order given by the military. Therefore, we have no responsibility.” Then, they requested the military to extend necessary medical care to him. However, the military again refused to do so.

They repeatedly requested the military to hospitalize him at the military hospital. They even told them that they would pay for medical expenses. Then, they pretended to accept their request and told them “They would soon transport him to the military hospital by car.” However, he was just left alone there. He died at 23:00 p.m. on February 6.

The Japanese crews requested the police authority to cremate dead Chief fisherman. However, it was turned down. They had to improvise his funeral service and materials to cremate him all by themselves.

On February 9, they were transferred to an air defense facility in which they were confined in a small room whose floor area was 8.25 square meters. 18 crews were confined there with no food supplied by them. They had to survive on limited foods they had with them.

During police interrogation, the S. Korean police authority insisted that two Japanese fishing vessels were captured 9 nautical miles from Hanlin, Jeju Island. On the other hand, the Japanese crews pointed out not only inaccuracy of navigational compass but also speed of the Korean vessels and then insisted that it was 30 nautical miles at the time of capture. Then, the South Korean police authority forced them to accept 13 nautical miles close to halfway between the Japanese claim and the Korean claim. According to a navigator of Daiini Daihou Maru separately questioned by the South Korean police authority, two Japanese vessels were 30 nautical miles from Jeju Island when they were captured.

At 23:00 p.m. on the same day, they were transferred to the police station at Jeju city and were jailed at the prison cell without any meal at all. The prison cell was only 8.25 square meters. 18 crews were jailed together with Korean inmates at a very small cell. However, some meager meals were served there.

The Japanese crews were again interrogated by the Jeju police. The Jeju police charged the Japanese crews with violation of Syngman Rhee Line. They refuted the South Korean claim by telling them that installation of the line encompassing the island of Takeshima and a large area of water with fisheries jurisdiction was a unilateral act in contravention of international law.

The police prepared an investigator’s record of oral statement in Hangul, in which the police falsified the statement as saying that the Japanese crews violated Syngman Rhee Line. The police told them to sign the falsified statement written in Hangul and informed the Government of Japan to the effect that they admitted violation of Syngman Rhee Line.

However, it was so obvious that two Japanese vessels were captured in international waters since the South Korean police fabricated a story of violation by the Japanese fishing vessels. A U.S. Navy representative met with South Korean pres. Syngman over the incident. Syngman expressed his regrets over abduction of the Japanese fishermen in international waters. Two fishing vessels and crews were returned home guarded by U.S Navy Frigate ship on February 17.

When leaving South Korea, the South Korean police stated “We are very sorry for death of your crew. Since our country is at war, we couldn’t afford to give you foods even if we wanted to. Please do not say anything bad about the police.”

Major Issues of the Incident described above:
  1. Installation of Syngman Rhee Line encompassing the island of Takeshima and a large area of water with fisheries jurisdiction is a unilateral act in contravention of international law.
  2. Firing at the civilian ships without warnings in international waters is a crime.
  3. Premeditated criminal act committed by the government of South Korea to pursue its military purpose of illegally occupying the large area of water and Takeshima as evidenced in the fact that each Korean vessel was staffed with 1 military police, 1 specially trained soldier, 1 information officer, 4 police officers in addition to 12 crews.
  4. Serious human rights violation by abusing the Japanese crews during interrogations. ex. Refusal to offer medical care, Refusal to supply foods, Refusal to carry out funeral service and cremation, Confinement of the Japanese crews at overcrowded cell whose floor area is less than  8.25 square meters, etc.

The above is just a beginning of brutal killings and abduction of the Japanese fishermen by the government of South Korea.

During the period of January 18, 1952 (date of unilateral installation of Syngman Rhee Line) to June 22, 1965 (signing date of Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea), 328 Japanese fishing vessels were captured and 3,929 fishermen were abducted by South Korea. And, 44 Japanese fishermen were brutally murdered by South Korea.

It is well known that the government of South Korea advantageously proceeded its negotiations with Japan over Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea signed on June 22, 1965 while keeping Japanese fishermen as hostages whom the government of South Korea used as a bargaining chip.

Reference materials

第015回国会 水産・法務・外務委員会連合審査会 第1号



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