July 30, 2015
Prohibition of Passage to Utsuryo Island
The “Takeshima Ikken” (The Takeshima Affair)
With the permission of the shogunate for passage to Utsuryo Island, the Ohya and Murakawa families in Yonago had carried out their monopolistic business activities without intervention for approximately seventy years.
When the Murakawa family traveled to Utsuryo Island in 1692, they encountered many Koreans engaging in fishing on the island. The following year, the Ohya family also encountered a number of Korean people on the island, and brought two of them, Ahn Yong-Bok and Pak Eo-Doon, back to Japan. At this time, the Korean royal dynasty prohibited its people from traveling to Utsuryo Island.
By order of the shogunate, which was now aware of the situation, Tsushima Domain (which served as the contact point with the Korean dynasty during the Edo period) repatriated Ahn and Pak to Korea, and initiated negotiations with Korea requesting that it prohibit its people from traveling to Utsuryo Island. However, there was a conflict of opinion over the attribution of Utsuryo Island and no agreement was reached in these negotiations.
Notified of the failure of the negotiations by Tsushima Domain, the shogunate decided to prohibit passage to Utsuryo Island in January 1696, recognizing that as no Japanese had settled on Utsuryo Island, and that the distance from the Korean Peninsula was shorter than that from Hōki Province, Tottori Domain, it was not wise to ruin a good relationship with a neighboring country for the sake of what was seen as a small unprofitable island, and that it would be sufficient to ban passage to Utsuryo Island because it had not been incorporated into Japan. The shogunate instructed Tottori Domain that passage by Japanese to Utsuryo Island was now prohibited, and ordered Tsushima Domain to inform the Korean dynasty of this decision.
The series of the negotiations concerning the attribution of Utsuryo Island is generally known as the “Takeshima Ikken” (Takeshima Affair).
However, actually, passage to Takeshima was not banned. This clearly shows that Japan already regarded Takeshima as its territory at that time.
Statement by Ahn Yong-Bok and Questions Raised
Ahn Yong-Bok returned to Japan after the shogunate prohibited passage to Utsuryo Island, following which he was repatriated to Korea and interrogated by Korean officials for violating the prohibition of passage to Utsuryo Island. The statement made by Ahn at that time is cited by the ROK today as one of the foundations for its claim to sovereignty over Takeshima.
According to documents held by the ROK, Ahn Yong-Bok stated that while in Japan in 1693 he had received a document from the Tokugawa shogunate acknowledging its recognition of Utsuryo Island and Takeshima as territories of Korea, but that the lord of Tsushima had seized this document. However, negotiations between Japan and Korea over fishing around Utsuryo Island began in 1693, when Ahn was taken to Japan then repatriated via Tsushima Domain. Thus, the Tokugawa shogunate would never have given him a memorandum saying that Utsuryo Island and Takeshima were Korean territory when he came over in 1693, and in fact it did not.
Moreover, the documents held by the ROK show that Ahn Yong-Bok stated during his visit to Japan in 1696 that he saw many Japanese on Utsuryo Island. However, his visit was after the shogunate had decided to ban passage to Utsuryo Island, and so neither the Ohya nor the Murakawa family was traveling to the island at that time.
The records related to Ahn Yong-Bok in the documents held by the ROK are based on the statements made during his interrogation upon his return to Korea after traveling overseas in violation of the national prohibition in 1696. There are numerous inconsistencies with the facts in his statements, including those mentioned above, but they have been cited by the ROK as one of its foundations for claiming sovereignty over Takeshima.