[미안하다 독도야] Sorry, Dokdo

First film dedicated to Dokdo 

By Yang Sung-jin

Published on The Korea Herald: December 25, 2008

Dokdo, a group of islets in the East Sea, is a deeply emotional issue for Koreans. Whenever Japan claims territorial rights to Dokdo, the Korean press, civic groups and individuals are quick to express their anger. But a territorial dispute cannot be resolved with emotions only, an idea that is painfully explored by "Sorry, Dokdo," the first Korean film dedicated to Dokdo.

Directed by Choi Hyun-muk, the documentary shows how meticulously Japan has been taking steps to claim its sovereignty over what it calls Takeshima. Choi makes a claim that Japanese authorities and scholars have been producing a growing body of official documents and scholarly research while Korean counterparts neglect amassing academic evidence.

For Koreans, Dokdo is clearly Korean territory. After all, two Korean citizens -- Kim Seong-do and his wife Kim Shin-yeol - are actually living on the islets along with a group of Korean police guards - and a Korean dog named "Jikimi" ("guardian" in English).

But the documentary shows the Japanese government and civic organizations are making concerted efforts to reverse the situation, notably changing the name of Dokdo in international maps into Takeshima.

The narrator, played by singer Kim Jang-hoon, laments the inaction of the Korean government, especially Foreign Affairs officials. Kim says that the Korean government remains silent over the Dokdo issue, perhaps for fear of complicating the bilateral relations with Japan.

Even ordinary Koreans pay attention to the issue only when a Japanese provincial government celebrates Takeshima Day or Japanese textbooks define the islets as a Japanese territory. That is why the documentary is titled "Sorry, Dokdo," implying the longstanding negligence on the part of Korean people.

The film, to be released on Dec. 31, revolves around the life of two Dokdo citizens and a project to float a massive Korean national flag, made from hand printings by 6,000 Koreans, off the coast of Dokdo.

Kim Seong-do and his wife Kim Shin-yeol lead a frugal life, fishing and diving to get sea foods, and their grandson visits the couple during the vacation. Life in the islets, however, is tough, to say the least.

Equally challenging is the flag-floating project, organized by college students. The event is held in Ulleung-do, where a number of Korean tourists drop by, but it takes as many as 25 days to sign up 6,000 people to produce hand printings comprising the design of the Korean flag, Taegukgi.

The flag was floated off the coast of Doko on May 26 this year. The image - a massive flag with 6,000 hand prints - is not only the climax of the documentary but also a rare symbol that Koreans do care about Dokdo.


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