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Japan's Dokdo claims spark calls for Olympics boycott

Political heavyweights, national petition call for Olympics boycott as Japan remains unchanged on Dokdo stance

Security personnel stand near the Olympic rings monument outside the Japanese Olympic Committee headquarters in Tokyo on May 18. (Reuters-Yonhap)
Security personnel stand near the Olympic rings monument outside the Japanese Olympic Committee headquarters in Tokyo on May 18. (Reuters-Yonhap)
The torch relay route map on the Tokyo Olympics website illustrating Korea’s Dokdo as part of Japan’s territory has raised the possibility of Seoul boycotting the Summer Games.

Dokdo, Korea’s easternmost islets, appeared on the official website of the Tokyo Olympics Committee as part of Japan in July 2019. Seoul’s Foreign Ministry immediately urged Tokyo to delete Korea’s islets from the map. Japan then revised the map to make Dokdo less visible, but the islets were still visible if the map was enlarged.

Japan’s latest claim of Dokdo has led to mounting calls for Korea to withdraw from the upcoming Olympic Games slated to begin July 23.

Former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun wrote on Facebook on Sunday that Japan’s inclusion of Dokdo on its Olympic map was a clear political provocation. He said he opposes Seoul’s participation in the Summer Games that “undermine Korea’s sovereignty and pride.”

“If the demands for political neutrality raised at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics three years ago do not apply equally to the Tokyo Olympics, it would be a violation of equity and damage to the Olympic spirit based on fairness,” he said.

During the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, inter-Korean delegations carried the Unification Flag, which depicts the Korean Peninsula. But Dokdo was removed from the flag after Seoul accepted the International Olympic Committee’s request to leave out the islets due to a complaint from Japan.

The inter-Korean women’s ice hockey team also put on uniforms with a patch illustrating the Korean Peninsula without Dokdo to follow the IOC guidelines on political neutrality.

Former Prime Minister and ruling Democratic Party leader Lee Nak-yon wrote on Facebook on Thursday that Japan has ignored the Korean government’s protest over Dokdo being marked as Japan’s territory on its Olympic Committee’s website.

“From the past to now, Korea has been in effective control (of Dokdo). It is an obvious truth that cannot be a bone of contention,” he said. “If Japan refuses to the end, the government will have to take stern measures by all means possible, including the Olympic boycott.”

The magnified image (Right) of the Tokyo Olympic torch realy route on the Games official website shows Dokdo marked as Japan's territory. (Seo Kyung-duk's Facebook)
The magnified image (Right) of the Tokyo Olympic torch realy route on the Games official website shows Dokdo marked as Japan's territory. (Seo Kyung-duk's Facebook)
In a press briefing Thursday, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry reaffirmed that the Dokdo islets were clearly South Korean territory not only historically and geographically, but also under international law.

Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said Friday that Seoul will address Tokyo’s territorial claim over Dokdo on the Olympic website as strongly as possible. He told the members of parliament’s foreign affairs committee at the National Assembly that he already lodged a protest against Japan and such wrongful actions regarding Dokdo will not be tolerated.

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, however, said on the same day that Dokdo islets are Japanese territory based on history and by international law, rejecting Seoul’s request to remove Dokdo from the map on the Tokyo Olympic website.

The government and the Korea Sports and Olympic Committee said they would send an official letter of request to the IOC this week.

In regards to Seoul’s possible boycotting of the Summer Games, Kato said each country’s Olympic committee would decide on athlete participation.

Seo Kyung-duk, a professor at Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul, said that he sent a request to revise Japan’s Dokdo claim on its Olympic website to IOC President Thomas Bach and 205 member states. In response, the IOC gave the mailing address of the Tokyo Olympic organizing committee and told the professor to ask them about the matter, according to Seo.

More than 32,000 people have signed a petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website calling for a boycott of the Tokyo Olympics if the Japanese organizers do not delete Dokdo from its official map.

“Japan’s such actions are nothing more than a declaration of war by using the Olympics to internationally reveal their ambitions for Dokdo. Our government must respond more firmly than ever,” the anonymous petitioner wrote.

Although South Korea has been in control of Dokdo since its liberation from Japan’s colonial rule in 1945, the islets have been a recurring theme of tension between the neighboring countries with Tokyo continuing to claim sovereignty over Dokdo in its official government documents, public statements and school books.

By Kan Hyeong-woo (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)
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