The Japanese Invasion of Ulleungdo II

May 22nd 1882 – Japanese Loggers Swarm Korea’s Ulleungdo Island En Masse.
The Korean government scrambles to cope with Japanese trespassers on Chosun’s Ulleungdo
In the 1880s Japanese aggression in the region affected both Ulleungdo and Dokdo. However, each island suffered differently because they each had different intrinsic values. Ulleungdo’s assets were in the form of natural resources while Dokdo’s value was strategic location for military control. These documents describe how Japanese were logging illegally on Ulleungdo Island. It wasn’t as though Japanese hadn’t been trespassing on Ulleungdo before, this had been going on for centuries. In reality, the Korean government had simply become more aware of the problem.

The situation in the Ulleungdo~Dokdo area began to spiral out of control. Japanese squatters who were illegally fishing and logging began to overwhelm the region. The following is a conversation where an official from the 통리기무아문 (defense department) is speaking to the king. He is referencing a report made by the Kangwon Inspector Im Han-su. But first a brief introduction to the region as a whole.

Above left: An overall map of the Ulleungdo – Dokdo region showing distances to nearest Japanese and Korean landfalls. Above right: A map of Korea’s Ulleungdo Island.
Translation of the Chosun Survey – Report of Korea’s Ulleungdo Island

“Patrolling the island (Ulleungdo) I noticed a man cutting down some trees and piling them up by the shore. I could also see other men with short black haircuts in black sitting near the man. I approached them and asked them in writing what they are doing, and they answered that the Japanese man was working to ship the lumber to Wonsan and Busan.

Japanese ships are observed randomly coming and going these days showing a great deal of interest in Ulleungdo Island, which consequently leads to trouble. It’s necessary that 통리기무아문 report this to the King. These mountains are banned from logging for a reason and there should be proper measures and procedures in place. However, these Japanese are logging our forests secretly with neither our notification or consent. This must be stopped in a strict manner. A document is going to be made and sent to the Foreign Affairs Office in Japan through the Japanese authorities in Busan. It would be foolish to neglect the island when it is located in the middle of the open sea…”

Translation continued: “The importance of the island as a strategic position and the status of it as a defense system should be checked before any measures are taken. May I suggest that Lee Kyuwon be sent as an inspector as soon as possible and have him make a thorough investigation to help deal with this matter. …”

To this request King Gojong gave his consent.

The Rapid Disintegration of Korean’s Territorial Boundaries and Dokdo Island
The above record describes how Dokdo’s most proximal island was being overrun by illegal Japanese trespassers who happened upon the region through increased exposure. After the Shogunate’s isolationist policies ended and Meiji Japan expanded in all directions, Chosun’s Ulleungdo Island and Dokdo became Japan’s new Western frontier.

To the right:In 1902, Japanese police were stationed on Korea’s Ulleungdo Island (right) to control the brutal Japanese squatters who were gradually driving out Koreans on the island.

Just two years after this record, the Japanese government would graciously comply with Chosun’s demands and forcibly remove illegal Japanese squatters, loggers and fishermen from Ulleungdo, However, just 20 years later, the situation would spiral out of control and Japanese police would be installed on Korea’s Ulleungdo without consent of the Chosun government. From there, these illegal Japanese fishermen on Korea’s Ulleungdo were instrumental in Japan’s annexation of Dokdo Island.