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Politics/Diplomacy
2008/05/21 10:43 KST
Korean teachers demand apology from Japan over Dokdo claim

   SEOUL, May 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korean teachers on Wednesday called for an apology from Japan over its new educational campaign to claim Dokdo, a cluster of islets governed by Korea.

   "The move by the Japanese government to asert its territorial claim to Dokdo in the curriculum handbook for teachers is an act of usurpation of the sovereignty and the territory of the Republic of Korea," the Korean Federation of Teachers' Associations, a major umbrella union of teachers nationwide said in a protest letter addressed to Japanese Education Minister Kisaburo Tokai.

   Japan's Education Ministry reportedly plans to describe Dokdo in the East Sea as the Japan's territory in its revised curriculum handbook for teachers which will be completed by July for use starting in 2012.

   The central government's directive was a major embarrassment for Korea, as Japan's territorial claim has so far originated solely in a circle of right-wing scholars. The Fusosha textbook, named after its publisher Fuso Publishing Co. and published in 2001, angered Korea for its territorial description of Dokdo and for glossing over Japan's war-time wrongdoing, but few schools have adopted the controversial book.

   "This time, it's particularly embarrassing, because the Education Ministry is giving a directive to teachers," Kim Dong-seok, spokesman for the teachers' union, said.

   Seoul has expressed deep regret over Japan's move, after President Lee Myung-bak instructed pertinent officials to sternly deal with the issue. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan called in Japanese ambassador to Seoul Toshinori Shigeie and delivered the message.

   Lee visited Tokyo last month and held a summit with his Japanese counterpart in which they agreed to put aside the differences over historical issues between the two sides and improve ties.

   Dokdo meaning rock island, or lonely island in Korean, is a set of two main islets and 78 rocky outcroppings. It lies 92 kilometers east of South Korea's Ulleung Island, and 160 km west of Japan's Oki Island in Shimane Prefecture. The islets are called "Takeshima" in Japanese, meaning bamboo island.

   A Korean fishing family resides there during fishing seasons, aside a small Korean police detachment.

   International studies suggest the region is a massive reservoir of methane hydrate, a potential energy resource.

   hkim@yna.co.kr
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