Korea needs to beat Japan’s Dokdo PR blitz

Protesters gather to protest Japan’s claim over the South Korean islets of Dokdo in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, Tuesday. / Yonhap

Korea needs to beat Japan’s moves to promote its claims on Dokdo islets overseas, experts said Tuesday.

They pointed out that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade should map out a strategy to systematically weaken Tokyo’s attempts to encroach on Korea’s territorial sovereignty.

“If it comes to a public relations war, there is no time to waste,” a government-affiliated historian said. “However, the ministry as well as Cheong Wa Dae need to take charge.”

In a prompt response to the Japanese government running advertisements in media outlets to justify its territorial claim over Dokdo, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan told reporters that Seoul is ready to run ads on Dokdo in the same outlets to counter Japan’s groundless claims.

“Our government plans direct engagement in explaining to the Japanese people that Dokdo is Korean territory historically, geographically and under international law,” Kim said.

He is currently accompanying President Lee Myung-bak on his visit to Oslo.

His remarks came following Japanese media’s reports that Tokyo has decided to add 600 million yen ($7.7 million) to its foreign ministry’s budget for international territorial disputes.

Kim’s statement drew criticism from experts. Choi Won-mog, a professor at Ewha Womans University, said, “Attempting to publish ads in Japanese mass media will likely lead to Dokdo being defined as a disputed area, bringing about a negative impact on our claim to sovereignty of the islets.”

Choi opposed the plan of coming up with an official response.

The Japanese government has started running ads in some 70 newspapers to back up its territorial claim over Dokdo, which it refers to as Takeshima.

Kim added that his ministry will get additional money to promote Korea’s ownership of Dokdo abroad and “strongly respond” to any bid by Japan to take the issue of Dokdo to the International Court of Justice.

Another government official pointed out that Seoul should beef up more efforts to reach out to people abroad.

“What is the use of spending money to promote Dokdo in Korea, where the entire population knows it is their territory,” he said.

He said on condition of anonymity that if not the ministry, then an agency with expertise on Dokdo should coordinate some 30 government agencies and bureaus so as to project Korea’s views internationally.

The official pointed out that there should be more than the business-as-usual approach of sending promotional teams around the world without specifying alternatives.

“The ministry plans to send professors and its officials abroad to raise awareness on Dokdo,” he said.

The foreign ministry is seeking to increase its 2013 budget for international activities promoting Dokdo by 81 percent.

“The ministry wants to secure 4.2 billion won in 2013 to counter Japan’s aggressive international campaign,” he said.

Many expected the growing tension between Korea and Japan over Dokdo would ease after President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok, Russia, Sunday.

The two sides concurred on the need to mend ties and work together for a future-oriented relationship, but Japan is showing no signs of abandoning its territorial ambitions over Dokdo. <The Korea Times/Lee Tae-hoon>


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