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Painful Past
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Painful Past

Annexation of Dokdo, a first step towards Japanese invasion of Joseon

Japan’s plans to occupy Joseon became very clear following the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. After winning its war against China, Japan dominated Joseon and seized the Liaodong Peninsula. However, due to the intervention of Russia, France and Germany, Japan was forced to return Liaodong to China. While waiting for an opportunity to retake the peninsula, Japan attacked Russia on February 8th, 1904 instigating the Russo-Japanese War.

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A Japanese newspaper ran a picture of Dokdo, identifying the island as the site of its victory in the war against Russia (1906)


In April, 1904, Japan established military headquarters in Joseon and dispatched troops throughout the country. The commander of Japan’s Joseon headquarters placed Hamgyeong Province under Japan’s military administration in July 1904 and, as a result, a regiment of Japanese military police had taken control of civilian police forces in Seoul and nearby provinces by January of 1905. Since the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War, the Japanese military had understood the strategic value of Ulleungdo and Dokdo, the waters where the southward bound Russian Vladivostok Fleet had collided with the Japanese fleet.

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Defeat of the Baltic fleet that ended the Russo-Japanese War (1905)


The Japanese military forced the Great Han Empire to strip Russia of its permit to lumber on Ulleungdo, thereby preventing the country from gaining control of the island.

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Manghyang Peak in Sidong Village, Ulleungdo, is where the Japanese Military
established a watchtower following Japan's forcible incorporation of the island.


On September 1, 1904, Japan sent the warship Nitaka-maru to the west then south of Dokdo to build a watchtower on the island. Nakai Yosaburo, a fisherman who went on this mission, knew that Dokdo belonged to Joseon, as demonstrated by the fact that he sought permission to submit a request on behalf of the Japanese government to lease the island from Joseon. However, after talking to Kimosuke Kaneyuki, Director General of the Hydrographic Office of the Navy, he petitioned the Japanese government to incorporate Dokdo into Japan on September 29, 1904.

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The Japanese military watchtower at Seokpo Village on Ulleungdo still stands.


On January 10, 1905, Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Yoshikawa Akimasa sent a secret official letter with regard to 'ownership of an uninhabited island to Prime Minister Katsura Taro, requesting a Cabinet meeting with 11 members including the Prime Minister as well as the Minister of the Navy. At the meeting held on January 28, they made the decision to incorporate Dokdo.

Dokdo was unilaterally declared Japan’s territory when the Japanese government approved a request made by the fisherman Nakai Yosaburo. On February 22, 1905, in Notice No. 40, the governor of Shimane Prefecture announced that Dokdo would be considered part of its Oki Island territory. Japan points to this notice as the most important evidence supporting its claim to Dokdo.

The incorporation of Dokdo signaled Japan’s intent to annex Korea, as indicated by the Japan-Korea Protocol in the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War (February 1904), followed in rapid succession by the first Korea-Japan Agreement (August 1904), second Korea-Japan Agreement (Eulsa neugyak, November 1905), third Korea-Japan agreement (July 1907), and the Treaty of Annexation (August 1910).

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The Kagoshima brigade marching in the city of incheon after landing at the port (1904)


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A statement made by the Japanese Cabinet announcing the incorporation of Dokdo (1905)