Yonhap, Park Ji-ho/AP
South Korean Ambassador to Japan Kwon

South Korea Recalls Ambassador to Japan Over Island Claim

July 15, 2008 09:22 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
A territorial dispute over a long-contested set of small islands threatens to upset diplomatic ties between the two countries.

30-Second Summary

The South Korean government announced Monday that it is recalling its ambassador to Tokyo, following the release in Japan of an educational guidebook for junior high school teachers that makes claim to the islands.

The rocky island group, called Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan, is located in the Sea of Japan, which South Korea refers to as the East Sea. The largely uninhabited islands are surrounded by fishing grounds and may lie over undersea deposits of valuable natural gas hydrate.

Kwon Chul-hyun, the South Korean ambassador to Japan, is to make a protest to the Japanese government before returning to Korea.

The government of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, which has made it a goal to improve relations with Japan, called the book’s claim “intolerable,” according to an International Herald Tribune report.

“This is something we can never accept. Thus we protest strongly to the Japanese government and demand that it immediately make a correction,” said Mun Tae-young, spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry, according to the International Herald Tribune.

The Japanese claim has set off public protests in South Korea. In addition, several politicians gathered on the islands on Monday and made statements denouncing Japan.

In 2005, public uproar over a statement made by the Japanese ambassador about the islands included one protester’s fatal jump off a bridge, according to a BBC report.

Headline Links: South Korea recalls its ambassador to Japan

Background: ‘South Koreans Vent Fury at Japan’

Opinion & Analysis: The Japanese press, the Korean press

Reference: History of the islands


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