The report mentions Korean President Rhee Syngman's claiming that Tsushima was originally Korean territory and that "In the heart of every Korean is a longing for the return of those islands." That emotional appeal sounds very similar to the emotional appeals many Koreans make today in regard to Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo), which Koreans also claimed after the war without providing any evidence to back up their claim.
After the war, Korea seems to have tried to take advantage of Japan's defeat by making emotional claims to Japanese territory, including Liancourt Rocks, hoping that the the United States and its allies would simply give Korea the Japanese territory it wanted without checking the facts of the claims. Well, it appears Korea misjudged the United States.
On several occasions since the establishment of the Republic of Korea, the Koreans have indicated that they might present a claim to the Japanese island of Tsushima, apparently on the basis of the historical relationship between Korea and Tsushima. However, a note of caution in their latest statements may indicate that they have increasting doubts as to their chances of succsess and that they no longer intend to press the claim. Korea apparently held a dominant position on the island before 500 A.D., but its claim to control in subsequent periods is not supported by the facts available. On the contrary, there is little doubt that during the last 350 years Japan has exercised complete and effective control over Tsushima.
KOREA'S RECENT CLAIM TO THE ISLAND OF TSUSHIMA
Recent Korean Statements Regarding Tsushima
The island of Tsushima (1) has been recognized for many years by the commnity of nations as an integral part of the Japanese homeland. It was included in the territory placed under the Allied Military Occupation in 1945 instead of being detached from the Japanese Empire as conquered territory subject to future settlement at the peace conference. After the establishment of the Republic of Korea in 1948, however, Koreans began to demand Tsushima be taken from Jaapan and returned to them.
The Korean demands to date do not consitute a formal claim to sovereignty; they are, rather, declarations of future intentions and desires. The first statement on the issue was made by President RHEE Syngman on August 17, 1948, when he said, "In the heart of every Korean is a longing for the return of those islands," and indicated taht this would be the only demand for territory made by his government against Japan. The Japanese Prime Minister immediately denied the validity of any Korean claim, and heated words were exchanged by the Korean and Japanese press. The Korean demand was stated again in a petition sent to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers in late 1948 by the Old Men's Patriotic Association of Seoul, a minor right-wing political organization.
- "The island of Tsushima" consists of (1) a single large island, about 70 miles long and 10 to 15 miles wide, that is divided into two major segments by small canals and (2) several minor islands. It is situated at the southern entrance to the Sea of Japan, approximately 27 nautical miles from the coast of Korea and 45 from Kyushu.
President Rhee reiterated his demand on January 7, 1949 with the statement, "Tsushima was not robbed by Japan in the past forty year, but nevertheless the island originally belongs to our country and its return should be demanded. (1) The question was taken up by the National Assembly on March 22, when Assemblyman YI Kunwon introduced a resolution calling for the return of Tsushima to Korea. The motion was shelved after a brief examination by a subcommittee. When Rhee was questioned in a press conference on December 30, 1949 as to the advisability of sending "a research group" to the island, "in order to certify historically that Tshusimaa [cic] island belongs to the Republic of Korea," he replied that this was a problem for the Japanese peace conference and that premature discussion of it might prejudice Korean relations with other countries. (2)
While many Koreans may be convinced of the validity of the claim, it is obvious that the government's demands and popular support for them have not been based on a rational, legal analysis of the issue. The demands appear to be both a reflection of and calculated appeal to the nationalism and the anti-Japanese feelings that prevail throughout the Republic. They may also represent an attempt by the government to extract some small concessions from the Allied Powers. Public reaction to these demands has been generally favorable, but there has been some open ridicule of them and there has been little natural interest in or support of them except from such small segment of the population as the
- RBIS, Daily Report (For Eastern Section, 5, January 12 1949, p. 444 - 7, UNCLASSIFIED.
- A-463, Seoul, December 31, 1949, RESTRICTED.
nationalist historicans. The lack of extensive public interest and a more dispassionate analysis by the government of its chances for success probably account for the prolonged silence following the first show of interest. The President's cautious statement of December 30, 1949, to the effect that pressing the claim could produce a conflict of interests with other nations, appear to indicate that the government has made a rational reaappraisal of its entire position in the matter. The American Embassy in Seoul is of the opinion that the government now realizes the inability of proving its case and will no longer press the claim. (1)
TSUSHIMA'S PAST RELATIONS WITH KOREA AND JAPAN (2)
The Korean demands for Tsushima have been based on the assumption that Korea exercised genuine control over the island at some time in the past. Thus far, however, no attempts have been made to define the period of control and no reasons have been advanced for the loss of the island.
There are several important qualifications to be taken into consideration in any discussion of the evidence on the questioni of Korea's relations with Tsushima. First, the information available is far from complete, except for the most recent periods. (3) Second, it is difficult to define these relationships precisely in Western political
- D-93, Seoul, January 25, 1950, RESTRICTED.
- See appended historical bibliography.
- Almost no original source material is available. The sources that are available are vaue, confusing, and limited in scope; there are notable discrepancies in the reporting of alleged facts. Much more American and Japanese source material is available than Korean, and as a consequence the Korean position may be underestimated.
terminology because of the difference between Western and Oriental theories of interstate and inter-area relations. For example, under Korean Confucian and Japanese concepts of control several nations migh possess approximately similar political rights within the same area; such concepts obviously cannot be described by use of such Western terms as "dependence," "independence," "sovereignty," or "suserainty." However, despite these confusing factors, it is possible to make a reasonally accurate comparison of the relative degrees of Korean and Japanese control on the island.
Korean realtions with Tsushima have varied significantly in the past and can best be discussed in terms of four historical periods. The earliest of these periods is the era of the Korean kingdom of Silla's predominence on the island, which ended c. 500 A.D. The period extends to 1592, when Japan launched the first of a series of major invasions against Korea from Tsushima. The extends to 1855, the date of teh Meiji Restoration in Japan. The fourth and final period includes the years from 1868 to the present.
Most sources agree that in the first period the Korean kingdom of Silla (1) governed the island for a long but indefinite period of time. There is also some evidence that Silla's control was terminated by the Japanese seizure of the island in approximately 500 A.D.
There is no such unanimity of opinion as to the relationship between the island and the Korean peninsula during the years from c. 500 to 1592. Some of he texts allege that
- An ancient state whose lands now consitute the southeast territory of the Republic.
Korean influence was still paramount; references are made to the investiture of the rulers of Tsushima with titles and seals by the King of Korea, and it is claimed that the King of Korea paid subsidies to the island lord, who, in return, paid tribute and homage to Korea. However, the great number of invasions of the island by Korea during this period casts some doubt on Korea's ability to maintain control there for any appreciable length of time, even at the cost of war. Similar allegations of paramountcy are made on behalf of Japan in other works. However, the role claimed for Japan required greater activity on its part and a greater degree of control over island affairs, and this evidence accords better with the known facts of Tsushima history. The very fact that the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592 was launced in part from the island presupposes effective Japanese control.
For the period from 1592 to 1668 there is very little specific evidence that Korea exercised any control on the island. Even the texts that affirm belief in the existence of Korean rights of overlordship offer little information to prove that these rights were ever exercised in open and direct interention in island affairs. On the other hand, there is considerable evidence that Japanese control was complete and open and that it was peaceful, i.e., that both Korea and Tsushima acquiesced in, and willingly acknowledged, this state of affairs and no other nation challenged it. Japan appears to have been the de facto ruling power at this time.
There is no question of Tsushima's status as a dependency of Japan after 1668.
The Japanese reorganization of the government of Tsushima following the Meiji Restoration antagonized the Koreans, but they could only express disapproval of it. No other nation has sought to challengde Japan's control since 1668.
Therefore, from the information available, Korea's claim does not appear to be well-founded. Although Korea apparentlyy held a dominant position on the island before 500 A.D., its claim to control in subsequent periods is not supported by the facts available. On the contrary, there is little doubt that during at least 350 years Japan has exercised complete and effective control of Tsushima.