Our Man in Tokyo
Why Is Seoul Afraid of the ICJ?
By Mark Buckton
The Takeshima-Dokdo problem rumbles on.In as far as the Japanese see, and call them, the Takeshima Islands are an integral part of Japan.At the same time, the islands called Dokdo in South Korea are seen as Korean as is Jeju or any other isle around the peninsula.For the Japanese the current occupation by South Korean police and troops on the islands is illegal; the recent visit by Lee Myung-Bak nothing short of a slap in the face.Korea meanwhile sees no issue in their current leader visiting the islands but has failed to link his sudden desire to focus the attention of Korea’s population on the outside world with his leaving office six-months hence.Adding to the issue, the handbags at dawn session both nations seem to thus be heading towards took what can only be viewed as a comical turn in mid-August when a letter from the Japanese prime minister to his Korean counterpart never made it past the Korean Embassy in Tokyo.Childish efforts to return the letter unopened by Korean diplomats were met with Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs refusing to take it back for several days until, on August 24th realizing the world was watching and smirking at this schoolyard behavior by both nations, Japan stepped up, became the bigger man and took the letter back.The result? The two nations now stand at an impasse!And now, with little indicating the pair will make progress towards breaking said impasse any time soon, it is Japan yet again making efforts to solve the issue peacefully with an offer to let the International Court of Justice adjudicate. Korea’s response? A blanket and stubborn refusal to even attend or recognise any authority on the part of said court.This of course beggars the question as to just why such an option would scare Korea so? If their claim to the islands is as solid as they think, would not a chance to embarrass the Japanese in court be the icing on the cake?Indeed, would any individual or any entity, business or nation state, wholly confident in their position as Korea claim to be over its Dokdo Islands claim shy away from the chance to show those claiming otherwise – Japan – that they – Korea - are in the wrong, and on the global stage at that?Korea’s apparent reason for not wanting to head to the ICJ is based on the rather juvenile mindset that ‘Dokdo is ours so there is nothing to talk about’ a la kid caught out in a lie and refusing to admit such.Hopefully those on the peninsula muddying the waters with this approach will one day see sense, wake up and realise that the easiest and fastest way to fix the farce is to let the ICJ back your claims ... if they hold water in the first place.
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Mark Buckton, a Tokyo-based freelancing journalist contributes his articles to a number of world's noted newspapers including The Seoul Times.