Cameraman Visits Liancourt Rocks
NTV’s “Bankisha” recently paid a Korean journalist to take a tour boat to the Liancourt Rocks ( Takeshima / Dokdo ):
The issue has flaired up in recent months after Korean Air made a highly-publicized “test flight” over the disputed territory and the Japanese Foreign Ministry responded by asking its officials not to fly on Korean Air for one month (a meaningless action, because they never fly on Korean Air anyway). In response to the Korean anger of the “boycott,” a handful of Japanese lawmakers announced that they’d be taking a trip to South Korea’s Dokdo Museum, which exhibits evidence supporting Korea’s territorial claim. The lawmakers were denied entry to South Korea because authorities considered them a threat to public safety.
NTV’s trip to the rocks took place a few days after the lawmakers returned to Japan.
At Ulleungdo’s ferry port, the journalist filmed several Japanese language signs that had been put up. One sign tells Japanese politicians to come and apologize, and they’ll be given bananas (this is probably meant to be a racist insult, because Koreans have been known to mock “Japanese monkeys”). Another sign, written in very rude and direct Japanese, says something along the lines of, “You came? Take a look. What the hell do you bastards think belongs to you?”
As tourists board the ferry to the rocks, policemen are checking each passenger. Apparently they are there to enforce the recently-imposed ban on Japanese passengers. Korean police seem to be actively assisting the discriminatory policy of this ferry business. If NTV had sent a Japanese camera crew, they probably would have been turned away.
Inside the ferry, a concession stand sells snacks – many of which have nationalist slogans and images of the rocks on their packages. (The narrator reminds viewers are of recent actions by Koreans that have tried to escalate the tension between the countries, such as the Korean Air “test flight” and the purchasing of an advertisement in New York’s Times Square.)
The trip to the rocks takes about an hour. The passengers are allowed to disembark for 30 minutes, but their movements are restricted to a concrete observation platform. Policemen watch over them, making sure nobody does anything suspicious.
From the platform, one can observe the various buildings that South Korea has constructed on the rocks: a police station, a heliport, a radar tower, and several solar panels. The solar panels are a very recent addition. It seems that South Korea thinks that building more structures on the islands will help bolster its territorial claim.
They can also see the house of Kim Sung-Do and Kim Shin-yeol, a couple who are the only permanent residents of the rocks. Like some of the other structures on the island, Kim’s house has been upgraded in the last couple years. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the South Korean government paid for Kim’s house and also pays him a monthly stipend. When NTV calls up Kim’s government-subsidized phone line, he tells them that he has a very comfortable life, with access to plenty of electricity and fresh water.
The report closes with footage of tourists re-boarding the ferry. Two men scream about Korea’s ownership of the islands as a friend snaps a final photograph.
Look forward to more drama in the coming week: The Sound Korean National Assembly’s “Special Committee on Measures for the Safeguarding of Territory” plans to hold an official meeting at the rocks on August 12th.