Tok-Do Island, disputed area between
Japan and South Korea

by Wolfgang Schippke, DC3MF (27.March 1997)


The Tok-Do Islands seen from north-east, Seo-Do in front
The Tok-Do Islands, nothing more than a group of some rocks, are located about 215 km off South Korea and about 91 km off from Ulnung-do Island, and are an administative part of that island. The exact position is given with 37°14'45"N and 131°52'30"E. The group of two larger rocks and several smaller one, are heavy disputed between Japan and South Korea. The main reason are the fishing rights in this area.
The Tok-Do Islands are composited of limestone, errupted from the deep of the sea, millions of years ago. The today seen group contains of the West Island, also know as Seo-Do, and the East Islet, known as Tong-Do.
Tong-Do Islet is a steep-sided rock 100 m high, and Seo-Do is cliffy and rises to 174 meters. Both rocks, about 200 meters distant, are the remainds of an ancident crater, brocken in several parts. At the south-east side of Tok-Do, there are several deep caves formed by the erosion from the sea.
Tok-Do Islands are a special refuge for several rare birds, and several, partly endemic plants. In one of the last scientific expeditions to the rocks in 1984, there were found about 22 species of nesting birds and about 50 species of plants, of which 21 species are endemic. There are only small plants, mostly low plants, grass and several species of moose. The waters round the islands are rich in fish, one of the dispute between Japan and South Korea.
History: The Tok-Do Rocks were first maped and described in the early 13th century, and were administrated by the Silla Dynasty. Documents from this time show that the rocks seams to be known round 512 and named as U'san-Do. Close later Yi Sa-Bu mapped them and take them to Ulnung-Do Administration. One of the first disputes round the island is sayed to take place in 1592, when some Japanese sailors want to claimb the rocks, but were fighted away by a Korean gun-boat. In 1705 the French navigator and scientific G.Drill visited the islands and declared, that, after studying all papers, the islands are a part of Korea. The first scientific expedition was made in 1791 by the British Captain James Collet, who landed as on the East, as on the West Islet. In 1876 the Tok-Do Islands were mapped as a part of Japan, by an unknown British sailor, living in Tokyo. In 1905 Japan set his banner on the rocks, and annexed them. In 1945 the UN declared Tok-Do as not a part of Japan (Resolution SCAPIN 677), and Japan had to return them to Korea. In 1954 South Korea built up a concrete lighthouse and a concrete building with a helicopter landing opn the East Islet. Between 1949 till today Japan declared several times that Tok-Do, named in Japan as Take Shima, are a part of Japan and South Korea protested against this act of territorial claim. In 1990 as the P.R.C. and also North-Korea declared Tok-Do as a territory.