Home News South Korea South Koreans Swim to Disputed Dokdo Islands in Anti-Japan Protest

South Koreans Swim to Disputed Dokdo Islands in Anti-Japan Protest

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Download A bitter dispute between Japan and South Korea over a couple of small volcanic islands has seen the recall of an ambassador, the vandalism of a consulate, an international court challenge and the non-awarding of an Olympic medal in London.

Now, in an anti-Japan protest, a group of South Koreans is attempting to swim the 230 kilometres from the mainland to the islands known as Dokdo.

Mark Willacy from Radio Australia has more.

"Dokdo is our territory," they shout, before stripping down to their swimming outfits and tugging on their swimming caps.

Led by famous rock ballad singer, Kim Jang-hoon, these South Koreans are about to embark on a 230 kilometre relay swim to a couple of rocky outcrops in the middle of the Sea of Japan, known as Dokdo.

“Dokdo is undeniably our territory, it belongs to South Korea," says Kim Jang-hoon. "We will swim there so that Dokdo will not feel alone," he says.

There's certainly a look of isolation and solitude about these volcanic specks, which also happen to lie in the midst of rich fishing grounds and near a seabed covering vast natural gas deposits.

There are only two permanent residents on Dokdo, an elderly fisherman and his wife. South Korea now rotates coastguard officers through a base there.

But it was a trip last week by South Korean president, Lee Myung-bak, that really thrust these barren rocks into the international spotlight.

This first visit by a South Korean leader enraged the country's former imperial master Japan. Because it too claims sovereignty over Dokdo, or as Tokyo prefers to call the place - Takeshima.

“We are now looking to take this issue to the International Court of Justice. We want to seek a peaceful resolution.”

But since the president's visit to Dokdo, there've been some decidedly violent responses.

Someone in the Japanese city of Hiroshima threw a brick through the front door of the South Korean consulate there.

The brawl even spilled over into the London Olympics, when South Korean football player, Park Jong-woo, held aloft a sign reading "Dokdo is our territory" after his team had just defeated Japan for the bronze medal.

His action violated the Olympic charter banning political statements by athletes, and Park left London without his bronze.

Back at the beach it's time to begin the 230 kilometre protest swim to Dokdo.

Although it sounds like these Korean waters are a little colder than the London pool.

It's expected the swimmers will reach Dokdo the next day, which just happens to be Liberation Day in South Korea, marking the end of Japan's 35 years of colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.


Last Updated ( Saturday, 18 August 2012 16:47 )  

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