Monday, April 24, 2006

Whose Isles these are I think I know

A debate has been raging, in real space, regular media, and on the net, from a number of different perspectives, from Korean to Japanese (through American media filters)
, to British (Philip Chaston at, regarding the disposition of a handful of islands midpoint between south Korea and Japan.

It seems that, over the past few decades centuries, some hard feelings have developed between these neighbors. Japan's big unforgivable sins were in taking Koreans as slaves in the sex biz, back in the 1920s, 30s, and early 40s (they were the warlike people, then, you recall) and then apologizing for it last decade. The resentments and hatreds are being played out over a bunch of what some call a bunch of useless rocks. But those rocks are smack dab in an area where some believe there may be a rather substantial reserve of natural gas... plus there's darned good fish around there, and some Japanese families have been fishing those waters for generations. The Korean army has had troops on the rocks of contention, too, for a long while.

So, Japan sent oceanic surveyors out to study the sea bottom, and possibly to give a few distinctive features some decidedly Japanese names, and Korea (both North and South (!)) took umbrage. With big guns. Backs got stiff. Some tough talk ensued. Not sure whether there was any sabre-rattling, but there was an awful lot of escalating internal anger and outsider perplexity.

I suppose ownership and naming of these islands is a bit like my neighbor and me sharing the responsibility of a garden easement between our houses. The land probably belongs to one or the other of us, but we have no problems planting and sharing, until one of us decides to take measurements for the installation of a fence... I'm just lucky my neighbors & I don't have an ugly history. Or a desire for big fences on our little town lots.

This morning's reports have announced an accord, of sorts, over this issue (the islands, not the garden). I do hope the reports are solid. North Korea doesn't seem to need an excuse, these days. The world is already nuts enough without someone helping them get twitchier.

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