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Ulleungdo Squid Festival, August 2009

Ulleungdo Squid Festival, August 2009

Anyone who has worked as an English teacher in South Korea probably knows about Dokdo. If you don’t know, ask your students and be prepared for a burst of Korean national pride with singing and fists waving.

For the rest of you, Dokdo is a pair of islets situated in the East Sea between Korea and Japan. This is a source of contention between Korea and Japan as the latter continues to make claims of ownership over Dokdo or as they call it, Takeshima. In English, they are known as the Liancourt rocks named after the French whaling ship whose crew almost crashed on the rocks in 1849.

From the time they learn to speak, Koreans can sing and shout “Dokdo Uri-dang” (Dokdo is our country). Besides being a symbol of national pride and independence for Korea, Dokdo lies in a rich fishing area which could also contain gas deposits. The walls of elementary schools where I work are lined with posters saying Dokdo is Korea’s and I’m really popular at school on the days I wear a Dokdo t-shirt.

Since I moved to Ulleungdo, which is the porthole to Dokdo, this has become a source of entertainment for me. I’ve started a t-shirt collection, enjoy singing Dokdo songs with my friends at the karaoke and sometimes organize Dokdo t-shirt parties when we go out.

Dokdomania has even reached the streets of New York, with a tour bus which runs a Dokdo-promoting advertisement, in bright LED lights through Manhattan. The Korean tour company owner is so committed to the cause that he is losing out on 6 million won (about $6,000) a month by running the ad.

Should you care about Dokdo? Yes, if you live in Korea or have anything to do with Koreans in terms of business or personal relationships. The final frontier for Korean nationalism, I know that I will be hearing Dokdo Uri-dang, many more times over the next few months. I guess I better learn the words.


Written by BiancaZAR

September 6, 2009 at 2:40 pm