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posted Jun 20, 2010, 7:34 PM by Kuwon Kang

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"Dokdo" redirects here. For other uses, see Dokdo (disambiguation).

"Takeshima" redirects here. For other uses, see Takeshima (disambiguation).

Location of the Liancourt Rocks between Korea and Japan

Detailed map The Liancourt Rocks are a group of small islets in the Sea of Japan (East Sea). Sovereignty over the islands is disputed between Japan and South Korea.[1] South Korea has controlled them since after the Second World War.[2] Its name is derived from Le Liancourt, the name of the French whaling ship whose crew were the first Europeans to encounter and chart the islets in 1849.[citation needed] The islets are also known as Dokdo (or Tokto) (독도/獨島, literally "solitary island") in Korean and as Takeshima (竹島, Takeshima? , literally "bamboo island") in Japanese.[3] The Liancourt Rocks comprise two main islets and 35 smaller rocks. Their total surface is 187,450 square metres and their highest elevation is 169 metres.[4] They are currently inhabited by two permanent Korean citizens, Kim Seong-do (김성도) and Kim Shin-yeol (김신열), a small Korean police detachment, administrative personnel and lighthouse staff.[5] Korea administers the islands as part of Ulleung County, North Gyeongsang Province. Japan classifies them as part of Okinoshima, Oki District, Shimane Prefecture. The islands lie in rich fishing grounds which could also contain large gas deposits.[6]




A panorama image of the Liancourt Rocks.

A panorama image of the Liancourt Rocks. The Liancourt Rocks are composed mainly of two islets, 150 metres apart[4] ( Nishi-jima and Higashi-jima in Japanese, Seodo and Dongdo in Korean; both literally meaning western island 西島 and eastern island 東島, respectively). The western islet is the larger of the two islets. Altogether, there are about 90 islets and reefs,[7] volcanic rocks formed in the Cenozoic era.[8] A total of 37 of these islets are recognized as permanent land.[7] In 2006, a geologist reported that the islets formed 4.5 million years ago and are quickly eroding.[9] The total area of the islets is about 187,450 square metres (2,017,695 sq ft), with their highest point at 169 metres (554 ft) in the western islet.[4] The western islet is about 88,640 square metres in area; the eastern islet about 73,300 square metres.[7] Liancourt Rocks are located at about 131°52´ East longitude and about 37°14´ North latitude.[7] The western islet is located at 37°14′31″N, 131°51′55″E and the eastern islet is located at 37°14′27″N, 131°52′10″E. The islets are 217 km (135 mi) from mainland Korea and 250 km (150 mi) from mainland Japan.[4] The nearest Korean territory (Ulleung-do) is 87 km (54 mi) away (it can be visible on clear days) and the nearest Japanese territory (Oki Islands) is 157 km (98 mi) away.[4][7] The western islet consists of a single peak and features many caves along the coastline. The cliffs of the eastern islet are about 10 to 20 metres high. There are two large caves giving access to the sea, as well as a crater.[8][10]


Due to their location and extremely small size, the Liancourt Rocks sometimes have harsh weather. At times, ships are unable to dock because of strong northwestern winds in winter.[4][10] Overall, the climate is warm and humid, and heavily influenced by warm sea currents. Precipitation is high throughout the year (annual average—1324 mm), with occasional snowfall.[10] Fog is also a common sight. In the summer, southerly winds dominate.[10] The water around the islets is about 10 degrees Celsius in spring, when the water is coolest. It warms to about 25 degrees Celsius in August.[10]


The islets are volcanic rocks, with only a thin layer of soil and moss.[7] About 80 species of plants, over 22 species of birds, and 37 species of insects have been recorded on the islets, in addition to the local maritime life.[4] The islets are too small to have any significant amount of fresh water. In the early 1970s trees and some types of flowers were planted.[4] Trees are required under international law for the islets to be recognized as natural islands rather than reefs.[5][10]


There are two permanent Korean citizens, Kim Sung-do (김성도) and Kim Shin-yeol (김신열), living on the islets. In addition to these residents, there are 37 South Korean police officers who take residence on guard duty. There are also three Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries personnel, and three lighthouse keepers living on the islets in rotation. In the past, several fishermen also lived on the islets temporarily.[5]

International dispute

There are conflicting interpretations about the state of sovereignty over the islands in pre-modern times. A Korean claim is partly based on references to a Korean island called Usan-do (우산, 于山) in various historical records and maps. According to the Korean view, these refer to today's Liancourt Rocks, while the Japanese side argues that they must refer to a different island, today called Jukdo (죽도 竹島), a small islet located in the immediate vicinity of the nearest larger Korean island Ulleung-do. Japan officially incorporated the islands as part of its territory in 1905, shortly before Korea became Japan's protectorate. The present-day conflict largely stems from conflicting interpretations of whether Japan's renunciation of sovereignty over its occupied territories after the Second World War was supposed to cover the Liancourt Rocks as well. A decision by the Supreme Command of the Allied occupation powers (SCAP), Instruction #677 of January 29, 1946, listed the Liancourt Rocks as part of those territories over which Japanese sovereignty was to be suspended, but the final peace treaty between Japan and the Allied powers, the Treaty of San Francisco, did not mention them.[citation needed] On 14 July 2008, South Korea temporarily recalled its envoy to Japan, after the latter re-asserted its sovereignty claim over the islands.[11] Meanwhile, mass protests occurred in South Korea, with flag burning occurring in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. [12]


  1. ^ Charles Scanlon "South Koreans vent fury at Japan" BBC Online, 18 March 2005
  2. ^ "Liancourt Rocks / Takeshima / Dokdo / Tokto", Globalsecurity
  3. ^ Staff Seoul and Tokyo hold island talks BBC, 20 April 2006
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h (1999–2006). Dokdo: A Profile. Retrieved 9 January 2006.
  5. ^ a b c (1999–2006). Dokdo: Inhabitants and Visitors. Retrieved 9 January 2006.
  6. ^ Island row hits Japanese condoms
  7. ^ a b c d e f Gyongsangbuk-do (2001). Cyber Dokdo. Retrieved 9 January 2006.
  8. ^ a b Geography of Dokdo, retrieved 2007-08-21, 'Dokdo is composed of alkaline effusive rocks which erupted during the Cenozoic Era. Dokdo began to form about 4.6 million years ago'
  9. ^ "독도, 일본보다 빠른 속도로 침몰하고 있다", The Korea Times, 2006/12/01. 손영관교수 `독도ㆍ울릉도 `침몰하고 있다``, JoongAng Ilbo, 2006/12/01.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Truth of Dokdo. Story of Dokdo. Retrieved 9 January 2006.
  11. ^ "South Korea to recall Japan envoy". BBC (2008-07-14). Retrieved on 2008-07-14.
  12. ^ Phoenix TV Hong Kong 外媒:日韩国内问题引爆岛屿纷争_资讯_凤凰网