After lunch we had “orientation” where a professor gave a long lecture on Korean history and the island between Japan and Korea that Korea calls Dokdo. The lecture was in Korean and somewhat awkwardly translated, making it difficult to follow. The beginning was interesting, with facts about the island like the marine life that can be found around it; the black-tailed gulls that call it home and the now extinct seals that use to live in the area. As well as how the part of the island you can see is only the tip of a large mass beneath the sea. But then the lecture switched to decrees, documents, and scraps of paper about the island and it’s stormy history between Korea and Japan with some international disruptions. After a long day that had started for me at 3am and had included hiking up the steep hills of Ulleungdo to get around in the heat I found myself struggling to follow the flow of the lecture and not fall asleep in the cool dark auditorium. I wasn’t the only one, sadly many other people succeeded in falling asleep. After our lecture we hiked up more steep hills in the heat to the Dokdo museum which talks about the Korean side of the island’s history. We saw replica’s of maps, films, and a 360 video from the island.
The purpose of this trip was to tell us South Korea’s side about Dokdo, which is a hot button issue in Korea. The island is between Japan and Korea and both countries claim the island is theirs. In English the island is called the Liancourt Rocks, South Korea currently calls it Dokdo, though the name has changed, and Japan calls them Takeshima. From the lectures we were told how South Korea ties the island to their national identity and their history with Japan, and how it symbolizes the relationship between the countries. Since we were given a guided tour we weren’t given much time to explore the museum, but if you’re curious about South Korea’s relationship with the island it’s a good place for information. I however don’t have a clue about Japan’s relationship with the island beyond what was said in the lecture and museum which is biased on the side of Korea.
There’s also a lot of other interesting things to do in the area around the museum. There’s an island observatory cable car which was under repair so we didn’t get to ride it (they bought us Gorgonzola pizza to try and make up for it), there’s also a pretty Buddhist temple and a Mineral spring park. We also visited a couple of monuments, one of which we were told was for a man who when he was alive was arrested but later was hailed a hero. He stole military uniforms, dressed in them and was captured by the Japanese, only for them to realize he was a rich important person and was quickly returned to Korea