Japan recently arrested a South Korean crab fisherman for operating illegally not far from group of islands claimed by both countries. In an email interview, Min Gyo Koo, an expert in East Asian island disputes at Seoul National University, discussed the territorial dispute between Japan and South Korea.
WPR: Briefly, what is the history of the territorial dispute between Japan and South Korea?
Min Gyo Koo: The disputed islands known as Dokdo in Korea and as Takeshima in Japan are de facto controlled by South Korea, but Japan does not recognize South Korea's de jure sovereignty. Japan's fundamental legal claim stems from Feb. 22, 1905, when the government of Shimane Prefecture unilaterally placed the island group under the administrative control of local Japanese authorities in the Oki Islands. But the Koreans strongly protest this claim, arguing that the Japanese took advantage of Korea's political weakness in 1905, when Japan had already taken control of the foreign affairs of Korea via the Protectorate Treaty of 1905.