Korean claim to Tsushima Island

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The Tsushima Island dispute concerns a territorial issue about Tsushima Island (対馬), a large island in the Korea Strait between the Korean peninsula and the island of Kyushu. The island is known as the Daemado in Korean.[1] South Korea does not officially claim the island though some South Koreans have said that Korea has a historical claim on the island and have taken steps to attempt to assert South Korean claim.


Sanguozhi, the official historical records of the Three Kingdoms period of China (220–280 A.D.) written in the third century, recorded that the island was an ancient country of Wa (Japan).[citation needed]

When the ancient law system Ritsuryō of Japan was established (somewhere between 645 and 701 A.D.), Tsushima Province formally became a province of Japan.[citation needed] Since then, Tsushima Province has been a part of Japan, except for the temporary occupation by Mongol Empire in the Mongol invasions of Japan (1274 and 1281).[citation needed]

Though the royal court of Joseon Dynasty Korea (1392-1897) recognized that the island was inhabited and controlled by Japanese, it generally maintained that the island had been Korean territory since ancient times, and that despite the lengthy Japanese occupation of the island it fundamentally rightfully belonged to Korea. The samurai household, loyal vassals of each successive Japanese shogunate who acted as governors or lords of Tsushima since the 12th century, were also claimed as vassals by the kings of Joseon and consistently behaved accordingly.[2]

The island was described by Hayashi Shihei in Sangoku Tsūran Zusetsu, which was published in 1785. As in many Japanese publications of the time, it was identified as part of Japan.[3]

20th century[edit]

In 1946, the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) defined Japan to include the four main islands and approximately 1000 nearby islands, including Tsushima.[4]

In 1948, the Republic of Korea (ROK) asserted its sovereignty over the island based on "historical claims".[5] In 1949, the SCAP rejected South Korea's claim.

In 1951, United States-Korea negotiations about the Treaty of San Francisco made no mention of Tsushima Island.[6] After this, the status of Tsushima as an island of Japan was re-confirmed by the US.[7]

In 1974, Korea and Japan reaffirmed that Tsushima is part of Japan.[8]

21st century[edit]

In 2008, a small minority of members of the National Assembly of South Korea proposed claiming Tsushima as part of Korea.[9] There were 50 members in this group.[10]

In 2010, some members of the National Assembly proposed a study of Korea's territorial claims to Tsushima.[11] There were 37 members in this group.[10]

In 2013, a South Korean court decided the preliminary injunction that provisionally prevents a Buddhist statue stolen from a temple in Tsushima to South Korea from returning to the temple. A document found in the Buddhist statue shows that the statue was made in a Korean temple Buseoksa in 1330. Based on this record, some Koreans assume that the statue was moved illegally from Korea to Japan by Wokou in the late 14th century. Besides, Buseoksa declares its ownership over the statue.[12] This news provoked another wave of anger in the islanders and throughout Japan, as it was assumed in Japan that this could be another plot of Korean territorial ambition to the island.[13]


  • 1946: SCAP lists Tsushima as part of Japan[4]
  • 1950: Korea claims the island[5]
  • 1951: South Korea sets aside claim to Tsushima[6]
  • 1974: South Korea-Japan treaty reconfirms Tsushima is Japanese island[8]
  • 2005: South Korean city Changwon City claims the island as South Korean territory.[14][15]
  • 2008: 50 members of ROK National Assembly propose re-claiming Tsushima[9]
  • 2010: 37 members of ROK National assembly propose study about re-claiming the island[11]

United States' position[edit]

A United States' report titled Korea's Recent Claim to the Island of Tsushima analyzed the Korean claim and says:[16]

"While many Koreans may be convinced of the validity of the claim, it is obvious that the government's demands and popular support for them have not been based on a rational, legal analysis of the issue. The demands appear to be both a reflection of and calculated appeal to the nationalism and the anti-Japanese feelings that prevail throughout the Republic."

" There is no question of Tsushima's status as a dependency of Japan after 1668. The Japanese reorganization of the government of Tsushima following the Meiji Restoration antagonized the Koreans, but they could only express disapproval of it. No other nation has sought to challenge Japan's control since 1668.

Therefore, from the information available, Korea's claim does not appear to be well-founded. Although Korea apparently held a dominant position on the island before 500 A.D., its claim to control in subsequent periods is not supported by the facts available. On the contrary, there is little doubt that during at least 350 years Japan has exercised complete and effective control of Tsushima."


  1. ^ "S. Korea hits Japan in escalating territorial dispute," USA Today, March 18, 2008; retrieved 2013-4-3.
  2. ^ Jeong-mi Lee, “Chosŏn Korea as Sojunghwa, the Small Central Civilization,” International Christian University Publications 3-A, Asian Cultural Studies 国際基督教大学学報 3-A,アジア文化研究 36 (2010), 308.; James Lewis, Frontier Contact between Chosŏn Korea and Tokugawa Japan, Routledge Curzon, 2003.
  3. ^ Klaproth, Julius. (1832). San kokf tsou ran to sets, ou Aperçu général des trois royaumes, p. 96; excerpt, "... et vis-à-vis de l'île de Toui ma tao (Tsou sima) qui fait partie du Japon ...."
  4. ^ a b Schoenbaum, Thomas J. (2007). Peace in Northeast Asia: Resolving Japan's Territorial and Maritime Disputes with China, Korea and the Russian Federation, p. 108.
  5. ^ a b "U.S. State Department, Report from the Office of Intelligence Research: Korea´s Recent Claim to the Island of Tsushima (prepared on March 30, 1950)"; retrieved 2013-4-2.
  6. ^ a b "Memorandum of Conversation, by the Officer in Charge of Korean Affairs in the Office of Northeast Asian Affairs (Emmons)," Foreign Relations 1951, Vol. VI, pp. 1202-1203; excerpt, "Mr. Dulles noted that paragraph 1 of the Korean Ambassador's communication made no reference to the island of Tsushima and the Korean Ambassador agreed that this had been omitted."
  7. ^ US Bureau of the Census. (1965). Foreign Commerce and Navigation of the United States, p. lv.
  8. ^ a b Charney, Jonathan I. and Lewis M. Alexander. (1998). International Maritime Boundaries, p. 141 n75.
  9. ^ a b "Japanese island haunted by turbulent ties with Korea," Agence France-Presse (AGF). 21 August 2008; retrieved 2012-4-3.
  10. ^ a b Note: There are 300 members of the Korean National Assembly -- see Kim, Tae-jong. "A Look at Election Through Numbers," Korea Times, 9 April 2008; retrieved 2013-4-2.
  11. ^ a b 대마도는 우리땅" 여야 의원 37인, 국회 정식포럼 창립, Chosun Ilbo (ROK). 28 September 2010; retrieved 2013-4-3.
  12. ^ An illegally returned Buddhist statue (절도범이 반입한 불상), "Hankuk Ilbo" (ROK). 9 October 2013; retrieved 2013 11-03.
  13. ^ "Tsushima Journal: An Icon and a Symbol of Two Nations' Anger". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 Aug 2013.
  14. ^ "S Korea not calmed by Japan's statement in territorial dispute," Taipei Times. 19 March 2005; retrieved 2013-4-2.
  15. ^ "Ordinance of Day of Daemado in Changwon". Enhanced Local Laws and Regulations Information System (in Korean). 2012-12-28. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  16. ^ Korea's Recent Claim to the Island of Tsushima (OIR Report No. 4900), Division of Research for Far East, Office of Intelligence Research, Department of State, 30 March 1950

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