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[NEWS] [New Book] Problems with Japan's Claims to Territorial Sovereignty of Dokdo Clarified

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by Prof. Oh Si-jin: “Dokdo Territorial Rights and International Legal Title 2”


A book that clarifies the problems of Japan’s claims to sovereignty over Dokdo Island using legal principles of international law titles has been published. The book was co-authored by Sahmyook University’s Professor Oh Si-jin of Smith College of Liberal Arts. The title of the book is “Dokdo Territorial Rights and International Legal Title 2.” The term “title” here refers to a legal cause that justifies an act.

Dokdo is clearly a territory of Korea, not merely in symbolic terms but also based on history, geology, and international law. Japan, however, continues on with its provocation against Korea over sovereignty over the island. Even recently, the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee marked Dokdo as a Japanese territory on its website, following Japan’s National Museum of Territory and Sovereignty, which re-opened in 2020 with the intention of defending Japan’s legitimacy to rule the territory under international law and Korea’s deforecement since 1905.

With the intention of identifying such problematic issues, this book preemptively examines the Japanese colonialism embedded in Japanese studies on international law titles, which have been building the political grounds for Japan’s claims for sovereignty over Dokdo and the inherent problems of the distortion of international law derived therefrom.

On such premises, this book first traces the genealogy of studies on titles and legal principles of Japan, then secondly, provides analysis on general international law and legal issues on colonial territorial acquisition according to international judicial precedents, and lastly, it identifies the problems of legal interpretations within the major studies on titles by Japanese international law experts.

Japan’s claims of legal sovereignty over Dokdo since 1905 under international law clearly go against the basic principle of post-war liquidation that stipulates the obligation of giving up the territories that had been plundered by “violence and greed“ in the colonial and imperial era.

It is also notable that the international law back in 1905 that Japan depends on for its claims’ legitimacy, in fact, suggests a rise of normativity based on universal international norms instead of the Japanese-style legalism associated with aggressive state practice. Furthermore, the Harvard Draft Convention on the Law of Treaties, which was declared in 1935 in the process of codification of the Convention of the Law of Treaties by the UN International Law Commission, also presents Eul Sa Neuk Yak, the Protectorate Treaty between Korean and Japan concluded in 1905, as one of the representative null and invalid treaties reached through coercion by the delegation of state.

Along with Professor Oh’s paper, the book also compiles several other experts’ papers, including Do Shi-hwan, a Senior Researcher at the Dokdo Research Institute of the Northeast Asian History Foundation; Kim Dong-wook, Researcher at the Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy; Jeong Jae-min, Deputy Director-General of Legal Counsel of the Ministry of Justice; Choi Cheol-young, Professor at the Division of Law for Daegu University; Song Hwi-young, Research Professor at Youngnam University’s Dokdo Institute; and Lee Sung-hwan, Professor at Keimyung University’s College of Humanities and International Studies.

Professor Oh’s paper, included in Chapter 2, “Implications of Dokdo Sovereignty in Terms of the Territorial Acquisition Methods Both in Colonialism and International Law,” reviews the notion of colonialism and its history in international society and uses the issue of Dokdo to explain Korean territory and colonialism in Korea.

Professor Oh said, “Japan’s issue of preoccupying the ownerless land Dokdo in 1905 is not irrelevant with the colonization work.” He pointed out, “The fact that the conquest was done as a part of the colonization itself is a legal issue.”

The book features several papers on various topics, including Implications of International Jurisprudence on Dokdo’s Sovereignty Issue, Review of Japan’s International Legal Rationale for Claiming Its Occupation of “Terra Nullius“ Dokdo, and Review of Japan’s International Legal Rationale for Claiming Dokdo as Its Indigenous Territory.

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