Dokdo, Korea’s most eastern island is surrounded by a beautiful ocean with many species of fish. On the warm rocks of Dokdo there used to live 30 to 50 thousand sea lions.
In 1910, Japan officially took over Korea and then in 1905, Japan forcibly incorporated Dokdo. Nakai Yozaburo, a Japanese fisherman made a fortune hunting sea lions. Driven by greed, he wanted to ensure a monopoly over fishing rights around Dokdo. Nakai petitioned the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs to incorporate Dokdo into Japan. However, his petition was rejected because of a Japanese document that claimed Dokdo belonged to Korea.
“Ulleungdo and its affiliated island have no relation to Japan.” from a Daijokan (Grand Council of State directive, 1877)
However, Japan suddenly changed its position during the Russo-Japanese War. Even though Japan knew that Dokdo belonged to Korea, since Japan needed a strategic military outpost to defeat the Russian fleet they took control of Dokdo.
Japan also granted exclusive fishing rights to Nakai Yozaburo. Using Ulleungdo and Dokdo, Japan managed to defeat the Baltic Fleet and Nakai Yozaburo was allowed to catch sea lions at he’s own will.
Dokdo was the first Korean territory to have suffered from Japanese imperialism. Japanese fishermen used baby sea lions as bait to catch mother sea lions. When the mother sea lions tried to save their babies, the fishermen captured them. They sold the skins of mother sea lions to bag manufacturers and baby sea lions were sold to circuses.
Japanese fishermen captured 14 thousand sea lions over 8 years beginning in 1905.
In less than a half century, Dokdo sea lions became extinct. The extinction of the Dokdo sea lions foreshadowed the looming fate of the Korean people. Soon, Japan annexed Korea and took the lives of many innocent people. To threaten Korean freedom fighters, Japan used their families. They took the families hostage and killed them, just like they killed the sea lions.
Can you remember these sea lions? We must protect Dokdo to protect peace in Korea and the world. The tragedy of Dokdo started with the greed of a Japanese fisherman and an imperialistic ambition of a country that took away numerous innocent lives, land, and history.
We must take action to stop the imperialistic activities of Japan. Japan is again making a move on Dokdo and pursing its old imperialistic ambitions. We must reveal the truth behind their false claims. We must let them know that the international community is no longer controlled by force. Let’s build a fair and peaceful world together. Please help us eliminate this lingering imperialism, the tragedy of humanity.