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Civic group VANK revs up promotion of Dokdo via SNS

A South Korean civic group said Monday it will launch a campaign to promote South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo via social networking services against Japan's renewed territorial claim.

Tension remains high between Seoul and Tokyo over the rocky outcroppings in the East Sea following the unprecedented visit there by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in August.

Lee has cited Tokyo's unrepentant attitude over its brutal 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula as a key reason for the trip.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told the Associated Press last week, “When the Japanese government claims Dokdo is their territory, Korean people (take) it as another attempt to invade our country. So that's the Korean sentiment and I hope that the Japanese government understands this.”

Japan took control of Dokdo in 1905 when it forced the South Korean government to abandon its sovereign right to diplomacy in a prelude to colonizing the Korean Peninsula five years later. 

“Our members will promote Dokdo online from today to refute Tokyo's blunt attempt to lay claim to the islets,” said Park Gi-tae, the director of the non-governmental organization Voluntary Agency Network of Korea.

Launched in 1999, VANK has 60,000 Korean volunteers and 15,000 international members, according to its Web site. In July, Seoul's foreign ministry and the group agreed to train 500 young students as “cyber diplomats” to widen South Korea's reach and awareness at the civilian level on the Internet and social networking services.

The group said it will make 18 video clips in Korean and English that contain evidence running counter to Japan's claim, and post them on such Web sites as YouTube and Facebook, with some of them having already been put on its YouTube page (www.youtube.com/user/prkorea).

Thousands of CDs with video materials that explain history and relevant international law that support Seoul's rights to the islets will also be distributed to the VANK members around the world, South Korean students studying overseas and foreigners, according to the group.

“Psy's explosive popularity tells us how effective the SNS services are in reaching people of the world. Our grassroots, online-based campaign for Dokdo will be a better way than Japan's onslaught led by the government,” Park said.

Psy is a South Korean rapper and YouTube sensation with his hit song “Gangnam Style.”

“We will continue to make diverse versions of 'Dokdo Style' video clips to draw international support,” he added.

In the latest war of nerves between the two neighbors over Dokdo, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan implicitly criticized Japan in his address last week to the U.N. General Assembly, saying “no country should abuse” the rule of law to infringe upon another's territorial integrity.

The message was in response to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's speech that said Tokyo has “consistently” accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice and called for strengthening the rule of law in resolving territorial disputes.

South Korea has flatly rejected a Japanese proposal to take the issue of Dokdo to the ICJ, saying that no territorial dispute exists regarding Dokdo and the matter is not one to be dealt with through diplomatic negotiations or judicial settlement.

South Korea keeps a small police detachment on the islets, effectively controlling them. (Yonhap News)
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