Tension runs high between Seoul and Tokyo over the rocky outcroppings in the East Sea following an unprecedented visit there by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in August, who cited Tokyo's unrepentant attitude over its brutal 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula as a key reason for his trip.
South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo. (Yonhap file photo)
The Seoul government has earmarked 650 million won (US$583,744) of budget for next year to run advertisements to promote its territorial rights over the rocky outcroppings on both domestic and international media outlets, and is waiting for parliamentary approval, according to the officials.
If the budget is approved, it will be the first time South Korea has run commercials on Dokdo. Until now, the government had not sought such moves in line with its basic stance that no dispute exists over the islets. It reversed its course, however, after Tokyo's "recent serious provocations," according to ministry officials.
Japan's overseas diplomatic missions are in the midst of an extensive public relations drive over Dokdo, according to sources, and its government recently placed ads in its newspapers renewing its territorial claim to the islets.
For South Korea, images and videos about the islets will be created by world-renowned PR agencies and documentary producers, to feature on local and international major broadcasters and in newspapers, according to the ministry.
"We will highlight the fact in the ads that Tokyo's renewed territorial claim shows it has not fully repented for its imperialist past," a ministry official said, requesting anonymity.
The proposed commercials are part of a government effort to ramp up its global PR campaign about Dokdo. Seoul has started distributing 350,000 copies of a booklet worldwide defending its sovereignty over its islets, and plans to create Web sites about Dokdo in 10 different languages, including English and French, among other measures, according to the ministry.
Suh Kyung-duk, a professor at Seoul's Sungshin Women's University, poses on a street in Tokyo on Sept. 14, 2012, while holding a book and leaflet promoting South Korea's sovereignty over the Dokdo islets, in the East Sea between South Korea and Japan. (Yonhap file photo)
Dokdo, which lies closer to South Korea in the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, has long been a thorn in relations between the two countries. South Korea keeps a small police detachment on the islets, effectively controlling them.
South Korea views Tokyo's claims to Dokdo as a sign Japan has not fully repented for its imperialist past and a denial of Korea's independence because the country reclaimed sovereignty over all of its territory, including Dokdo, after the colonial rule ended.
Meanwhile, Seoul's foreign ministry dismissed Tokyo's reported move to take the Dokdo issue to the international court.
Japanese media reported earlier in the day citing its government sources that Tokyo is "in its final stage of preparations to unilaterally take the issue to the International Court of Justice (ICJ)."
The move came after South Korea rejected Japan's proposal to jointly take the case to the international court, saying the matter is not one to be dealt with through diplomatic negotiations or judicial settlement.
"The South Korean government confirmed nothing about those reports," Seoul's foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said. "But I would like to stress once again that Japan should scrap its unjust claims and try to develop bilateral relations, rather than hurting the ties as well as the feelings of the South Korean people."
As a latest tit-for-tat, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in his United Nations speech last month that his nation has "consistently" accepted the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ and called for strengthening the rule of law in resolving territorial disputes, in an apparent message taking aim at South Korea.
Upon the remarks, South Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan made it clear once again at the U.N. assembly that Dokdo's ownership is "not disputable as the islets belong to Korea historically, geographically and under international law, and no country should abuse the rule of law to infringe upon another's territorial integrity."
The case is unlikely to be heard at the court, as the consent of the counterparty is required to open deliberations there, according to experts.