Monday, October 29, 2012

Ulleung preserves remnants of Japan's colonial rule for a reason

 Kim Pil-ryeon poses in front of a Japanese house owned by a former governor on Ulleung Island on Oct 24. Kim, a native of the island, has many memories of Japanese neighbors and songs.
/ Korea Times photos by Shim Hyun-chul


 Kim Pil-ryeon, 85, a native of this island, has a dying wish that will most likely be unfulfilled — meeting her Japanese classmates and neighbors with whom she shared many fond memories in her hometown.
Kim may not be aware of how the rest of her compatriots feel about Japan after its provocative claims to the Dokdo islets. But there are some relics dating from the Japanese colonial rule on the island that will ensure people never forget the dark chapter of Korea’s history.

Tourists enjoy the scenic view of Ulleung Island from the Naesujeon Observation Deck on the east coast of the East Sea island. Dokdo,
a sister island of Ulleung, can be seen from there on a fine day.

Nevertheless, Ulleung islanders have preserved a few of the Japanese houses to teach succeeding generations about the country’s colonial occupation by Japan, instead of razing them to allow the bitter past fade into oblivion. .
Lee Won-hwi, curator of the Dokdo Museum on Ulleung, says some elderly on the island feel nostalgia for the co-existence of Korean natives and Japanese new settlers, who occupied a large part of the island in search of better lives.

 A Japanese house built during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of Korea.
“The Japanese taught Koreans how to catch squid and made their living by logging and renting modern fishing boats,” he said.
“It is regretful that some former Japanese Ulleung settlers and their decedents continue to have a misleading belief that their occupation of the island was justifiable.”

An exterior view of a house built by a Japanese businessman in the 1910s on Ulleung Island.

Lee stressed that descendents of Japanese residents in Ulleung sometimes pay visits to the Dokdo Museum and often find themselves baffled to find out that Dokdo has long been a part of Ulleung residents’ life and both Dokdo and Ulleung were strategically used for the colonization of the Korean Peninsula and Japan’s war against Russia.
Japanese troops even built watch towers on the hills of the island’s coast in September 1904 to prepare for a naval battle in the East Sea during the Russo-Japanese War.

An interior view of the old Japanese house shown in the left picture.

A year later, Japan annexed Dokdo to construct watch towers and a telegraph station on the easternmost islets.
Historical records show an Ulleung Governor permitted Japanese fishermen to reside in the island and do business as migrants since 1897, more than 10 years prior to Japan’s colonization of Korea on the condition that they pay taxes to the Korean government.
Gina Anindyajati, an Indonesia medical doctor who toured Ulleung last week, says she sees layers of hope that Ulleung Island becomes a thriving international port town with throngs of Japanese tourists.
She, however, noted that the Japanese government and right-wingers should make sincere apologies first for the atrocities it committed during the colonial rule, such as sex slavery of Korean women, and unlawful annexation of Dokdo.

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