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Liancourt Rocks

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Liancourt Rocks (Dokdo 독도) are a group of small islands of South Korea in the East Sea, the sea between Japan and South Korea.[1][2] The islands are currently under the South Korean police. South Korea call them Dokdo. North Korea refers to them as Tok Islet in the English language, but in Korean both Korean states use the same term. The name Liancourt Rocks comes from the French whaling ship Liancourt. The people on the Liancourt made a map of the islands in 1849. The islands have been in dispute for some time by both Japan and Korean.


Liancourt Rocks
Disputed islands
Other names: Dokdo / Takeshima
Location of the Liancourt Rocks in the ('Sea of Japan' or 'East Sea') between Japan and South Korea
Location {{{location}}}
Coordinates 37°14′30″N 131°52′0″E / 37.24167°N 131.866667°E / 37.24167; 131.866667
Total islands 90 (37 permanent land)
Major islands East Islet, West Islet
Area 0.18745km2
Administered by
 South Korea
County Ulleung County, North Gyeongsang
Claimed by
Town Okinoshima, Shimane
 South Korea
County Ulleung County, North Gyeongsang

Tok-To consists of two islets, that are 150 metres apart.[3] These small islands are called West Islet (Korean: 서도/西島, Seodo), and East Islet (Korean: 동도/東島, Dongdo). The western islet is the larger of the two islets. Altogether, there are about 90 islets and reefs.[4] The islands and rocks have a volcanic nature.[5] A total of 37 of these islets are recognized as permanent land.[4] The eastern islet formed 4.5 million years ago. Ulleungdo formed 2 million years later. Both are quickly eroding and weathering.[6]

The total area of the islets is about 187,450 square meters. Their highest point is 169 meters on the western islet. The western islet is about 88,640 square meters in area; the eastern islet about 73,300 square meters.[4] Liancourt Rocks is at about 131°52′ East longitude and about 37°14′ North latitude.[4] The western islet is at 37°14′31″N, 131°51′55″E and the eastern islet is at 37°14′27″N, 131°52′10″E. The main islands coast lines are 217 km apart from mainland Korea and 212 km apart from main island's of Japan (honshu).[7] The nearest Korean territory (Ulleung-do) is 87 km away and can be visible on fair days;[3][8] the nearest Japanese territory (oki islands) is 157 km away.[4]

The western islet is made of a single peak. It has many caves along the coastline. The cliffs of the eastern islet are about 10 to 20 meters high. There are two caves giving access to the sea, as well as a crater.[5]


40 people are staying on the islands,[source?] several Korean telecom service providers (namely SK Telecom, KT, and LG U+) have also installed stations on Liancourt Rocks to cover the islets in the South Korean wireless telephone network.[source?] There is also regular ferry service from Ulleung-do.[9]

Although the islets themselves are barely habitable, the Exclusive Economic Zone surrounding them has rich fishing grounds and possible reserves of natural gas.[10] As of 2006, the expected reserves have not been found.[4] A wide variety of fish as well as seaweed, kelp, sea slugs, and clams live around the islets.[5] Major fishery catches in the area are squid, Alaskan pollock, codfish, and octopus.[4][5] There are 102 species of seaweed, although many of these have no economic value.[4]

This area used to be one of the largest breeding grounds of sea lions (Zalophus californianus japonicus) and a good spot for hunting them and also a spot for obtaining abalone at the end of the Meiji period (1868-1912).[11] Until the 1950s, sea lions were observed on the islets by the voluntary guards.[12]

There are approximately 37 South Korean police that guard the islets, also there are Ministry of Maritime Affairs & Fisheries personnel, a married Korean couple (The first residents: Jong-Dok Choi) (who are fishermen), and three lighthouse keepers living on the islets[source?]. In the past, several fishermen also lived there.[13]


Because they are classified as a nature reserve, special permits are required for tourists to land on the islets rather than just circling them.[13] There were 1,507 and 1,597 recorded tourists in 2003 and 2004 respectively.[13] Visitors generally come by boat from Ulleung-do.[4][13]

In 2005, the first wedding ceremony was held on the islets. The South Korean couple chose the location to protest against Japanese territorial claims.[14]


Liancourt Rocks can have harsh weather conditions. This is because of its location, and small size. Sometimes, ships are unable to dock because of strong northwestern winds in winter.[3][5] The climate is warm and humid. It is heavily influenced by warm sea currents. There is a lot of rain throughout the year (annual average - 1324 mm), with occasional snowfall.[5] Fog is a common sight. In the summer, southerly winds dominate.[5] The water around the islets is about 10 degrees Celsius in spring, when the water is coolest. It warms to about 25 degrees Celsius in August.[5]


Like Ulleung-do, the islets are volcanic rocks, with only a thin layer of soil and moss.[4] About 80 species of plants, over 22 species of birds, and 37 species of insects have been recorded on the islets, in addition to the local maritime life.[3]

Since the early 1970s, trees and some types of flowers were planted along with the indigenous flora and fauna.[3] (Trees are required under international law for the islets to be recognized as natural islands rather than reefs.[5][13])

Liancourt Rocks was declared "Natural Monument #336" by South Korea in the 1990s. Some birds actually live on the islands, but most are just using them as a stopover to fly elsewhere. The fork-tailed petrel, streaked shearwater, and black-tailed gulls live on the islands. The population of breeding birds counted on the rocks, however, has been declining in recent years.[5]

In 1999, the islets were designated a special environmental protected area by the South Korean government.[3] They are older than any other Korean volcanic islands, including Ulleung-do.[5]

It was announced in 2005 that three new genera and five new species of bacteria had been identified by ROK scientists in the waters off the islets. The genera are Dokdonella koreensis, Dokdonia donghaenensis, and Donghae dokdoensis. The newly identified species are Virgilbacillus dokdoensis, Maribacter dokdoensis, Marimonas dokdoensis, Polaribacter dokdoensis, and Porphyrobacter dokdoensis.

Strategic location

The islets are of importance not only for economic reasons,[source?] but also for military ones[source?]. They have occasionally served as a military base, most notably during the Russo-Japanese War. The South Korean government has built a radar station and helicopter landing pad on the islets, enabling it to track foreign naval forces[source?]. The 37 police on the islets serve as armed guards.[4] The dispute between South Korea and Japan over the islands has gained heat in 2008 with new Japanese school books mentioning the islands, and a visit by the South Korean Prime Minister in July. Ten years ago, no people lived on the islands. But South Korea started to populate the island to make its claim stronger.


  1. "S Korea bid to solve sea dispute". BBC News. 2007-01-08. Retrieved 2008-02-17. "South Korea calls it the East Sea"
  2. "Report on the Progress in Consultations on the Naming of the Sea Area between the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese Archipelago". Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (South Korea). 2007-08-30. Retrieved 2008-02-17. "the sea area has been consistently called "East Sea" in Korea"
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 (1999–2006). Dokdo: A Profile. Retrieved 9 January, 2006.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 Gyongsangbuk-do (2001). Cyber Dokdo. Retrieved 9 January, 2006.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 Truth of Dokdo. Story of Dokdo. Retrieved 9 January, 2006.
  6. "독도, 일본보다 빠른 속도로 침몰하고 있다", The Korea Times, 2006/12/01. 손영관교수 `독도ㆍ울릉도 `침몰하고 있다``, (중앙 일보)JoongAng Ilbo, 2006/12/01.
  8. DKB News. UL1.jpg. Retrieved 9 January, 2006.
  9. See Cyber Dokdo.
  10. Truth of Dokdo. Importance of Dokdo. Retrieved 9 January, 2006.
  11. Historically,Takeshima belongs to Japan, Shimane Prefectural Government, Japan
  12. (ko) "50년대 독도의용수비대가 활약할 당시만 해도 20∼30마리씩 떼를 지어 독도 연안에서 서식하는장면이 목격됐다. 독도의용수비대원이던 이규현씨(82·울릉군 울릉읍 도동리)는 "당시 독도에서 강치(바다사자) 무리를 간간이 볼 수 있었고, 울릉도 주민들은 이를 가재, 강치로 부르기도 했다"고 말했다." 독도에 바다사자 복원한다, The Kukmin Daily, 2006.02.02
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 (1999–2006). Dokdo: Inhabitants and Visitors. Retrieved 9 January, 2006.
  14. Tour 2 Korea Dokdo Tour. Retrieved 18 January, 2006.


Other websites

Official sites



[[Category:Islands of South Korea