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[Newsmaker] Conscientious Japanese Dokdo scholar dies

Seichu Naito, a Japanese historian renowned for his relentless rebuttal of Japan’s territorial claims to Dokdo, died on Dec. 16. He was 83.

After news reports on his demise belatedly circulated, many Koreans lamented the passing of a “conscientious intellectual” who bravely dug into the falsity of Tokyo’s claim to Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo in the East Sea.

His death comes as concerns are rising that the incoming Tokyo government to be led by security hawk Shinzo Abe of the Liberal Democratic Party will step up its claim to Dokdo and continue to deny Japan’s colonial-era atrocities.
Seichu Naito
Seichu Naito

Naito, a former professor emeritus at Shimane University, came into the spotlight in 2008 as he strongly repudiated the content of a pamphlet published by the Japanese Foreign Ministry in March that year to appeal to the world about Japan’s claim to the islets.

Naito called the pamphlet, entitled “Ten Points for Understanding the Takeshima (Dokdo in Japanese) Issue,” substandard, underscoring that Tokyo failed to present the legitimate basis of its claims through it.

“It (the pamphlet) turns a blind eye to historical truths and tries to hide facts unfavorable to Japan. For an official Japanese government publication, I cannot help but say it is embarrassingly limited,” he said in an article he contributed to The Korea Herald in October 2008.

“As a Japanese citizen, I would strongly demand that the Japanese Foreign Ministry express its views concerning this territorial dispute strictly based on the facts.”

After retiring from Shimane University in 1993, he, by chance, obtained Dokdo-related historical documents, based on which he began his in-depth research and built his belief that Japan’s claim to Dokdo is false.

After Tokyo’s pamphlet came out in 2008, he published a book containing his historical rebuttal. His publication required a great level of audacity as he could come under threat from his country’s conservative nationalists and could be labeled as a scholar against national interest.

Japan incorporated the islets as part of its territory in 1905 before colonizing the entire peninsula. Korea has been in effective control of them since its liberation in 1945.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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