Monday, May 15, 2006

What is the history of Ulleungdo? (Ch. 4)

Ulleungdo Splits into Two Islands

In "The History of Koyro"(918 - 1392 A.D.), Ulleungdo was recognized as one island, even though it was referred to by various names, including Usan-guk, U-leungdo, and Mu-leungdo. In other words, there was never any mention of Ulleungdo having any neighboring islands, except for one passage that mentioned that Ulleungdo had once been two islands, called Usan and Mu-leung. That story, however, was reported as hearsay. It was not until 1412, during the Chosun Dynasty (1392 - 1910 A.D.), that Ulleungdo seemed to split into a main island and a neighboring island, as the following passage in Volume 23 of the Records of King Taejong suggests.

Source: 「太宗實錄」 卷 二十三, 太宗 十二年 四月 己巳條

April 15, 1412

命議政府議處流山國島人 江原道觀察使報云 流山國島人 白加勿等十二名 求泊高城 於羅津言曰 予等生長武陵 其島內人戶十一 男女共六十餘 今移居本島 是島自東至西自南至北 皆二息 周 回八息 無牛馬水田 唯種豆一斗出二十石 或三十石 麥一石出五十餘石 竹如大椽 海錯果木皆在焉 竊慮此人等逃還 姑分置于通州高城扞[杆]城


의정부(議政府)에 명하여 유산국도(流山國島) 사람을 처리하는 방법을 의논하였다. 강원도 관찰사가 보고하였다. “유산국도(流山國島) 사람 백가물(百加勿) 등 12명이 고성(高城) 어라진(於羅津)에 와서 정박하여 말하기를, ‘우리들은 무릉도(武陵島)에서 생장하였는데, 그 섬 안의 인호(人戶)가 11호이고, 남녀가 모두 60여 명인데, 지금은 본도(本島)로 옮겨 와 살고 있습니다. 이 섬이 동에서 서까지 남에서 북까지가 모두 2식(息) 거리이고, 둘레가 8식(息) 거리입니다. 우마(牛馬)와 논이 없으나, 오직 콩 한 말만 심으면 20석 혹은 30석이 나고, 보리 1석을 심으면 50여 석이 납니다. 대[竹]가 큰 서까래 같고, 해착(海錯)과 과목(果木)이 모두 있습니다.’고 하였습니다. 이 사람들이 도망하여 갈까 염려하여, 아직 통주(通州)·고성(高城)·간성(扞城)에 나누어 두었습니다.”


In accordance with Uijongbu orders, methods for dealing with the people of Yusanguk-do were discussed. The governor of Kangwon Province reported, "Twelve people from Yusanguk-do, including Baek Ga-mul, came and anchored at Eorajin in Koseong and said the following:

"We grew up on Mu-leungdo, where 11 families lived with a total of more than sixty men and women. Now we have moved to the main island and are living there. The island's distances from east to west and north to south are each two shik (60 ri), and its circumference is eight shik (240 ri). There are no cows or horses or rice paddies on the island, but if we plant just one mal of beans, we harvest twenty to thirty seok. If we plant one seok of barley, we harvest more than fifty seok. The bamboo are as big as rafters, and there are all kinds of sea products and fruit trees."

Fearing that they may try to run away, they were divided up and put at Tongju, Koseong, and Ganseong, where they are still.

The above passage is a quite interesting because it is saying that there are two islands, Mu-leungdo and a "main island," which implies that Mu-leungdo is the smaller of the two. Since the passage is discussing people from Yusanguk-do, it is safe to assume that the "main island" is Yusanguk-do, which seems to be a misspelling of Usan-guk. The description of the main island seems to fit the description of present-day Ulleungdo, which would mean that Yusanguk-do would have been present-day Ulluengdo, and Mu-leungdo would have been a smaller, neighboring island.

So the question now is which neighboring island of Ulleungdo could have supported eleven families with a total of 60 people, which was the number of people reported to have been living on Mu-leungdo?

Ulleungdo has two neighboring islands, Jukdo and Kwaneumdo. Jukdo is the larger of the two with a total area of about 210,803 square meters (approximately 52 acres), which makes it the more likely candidate for being the Mu-leungdo referred to in the above passage. To see some good pictures of Jukdo, click here.

Some Koreans may try to claim that one of the two islands mentioned above was Dokdo (Takeshima), but that would be nearly impossible since Dokdo (Takeshima) does not have the water or the soil to grow the crops needed to support sixty people. Besides, Dokdo (Takeshima) is ninety-two kilometers southeast of Ulleungdo, which would hardly make it a neighboring island. To see a Korean video documentary detailing Korea's claims on Dokdo (Takeshima), click here. The video documentary is obviously extremely biased and distorts and omits many of the facts related to Ulleungdo and Dokdo, which I will address in future posts.

Anyway, if, as the above passage in the Records of King Taejong suggests, Yusanguk-do was present-day Ulleungdo, and Mu-leungdo was present-day Jukdo, then that would mean that Yusanguk-do was west of Mu-leungdo since present-day Ulleungdo is west of present-day Jukdo, which would explain why this 1530 map shows Usando (于山島 - 우산도) west of Ulleungdo (鬱陵島 - 울릉도). At any rate, it seems obvious to me that neither of the islands mentioned above could have been Dokdo (Takeshima).

By the way, for some reason, the Web site "Cyber Dokdo" forgot to translate the above passage in its chronological "History of Dokdo." You can check out the site here.


  1. Gerry, I've told you before. Leekyuwon did a survey of Jukdo Island in an attempt to map the area and talk to local residents.

    His report makes no mention of any sign of human life on Jukdo Islet. He also said the area was very dangerous and couldn't climb the 100 meter walls of the island.

    Your pictures of the island make the Jukdo Islet look like a resort but in reality it has no fresh water, mooring for boats and is surrounded by 100 meter cliffs. If there were 60 residents living on Jukdo they would need a minimum of 200 liters per day to sustain themselves. Assuming these people used some water for hygene you can raise the average water consumption to about 500 liters per day. This is based on a minimum amount from developing countries.'average%20person%20daily%20water%20requirements'

    Here is an image of "club Jukdo's" 100 meters walls.

    It's silly to think people would scale a 100 meter wall to live on a rock 2kms away from an island with fresh water, arable farm land and safe wharfage.....

  2. Annonymous,

    How could Lee Gyu-won survey Jukdo if he did not even go up onto the island? He even said in his diary that he did not survey the island because he felt it was too dangerous. By the way, he did not say he could not climb the cliffs.

    You do not know that there were no moorings for boats on Jukdo or that there was no path leading up to the island. And, as my post pointed out, in 1412, sixty people were reported to have been living on Mu-leungdo, a neighboring island of what almost certainly was Ulleungdo. And Mu-leungdo was most likely referring to Jukdo, the largest of Ulleungdo's neighboring islands. Moveover, there are other references in the records of the Chosun Dynasty saying that people lived on both Ulleungdo and Usando.

    People are living on Jukdo today, so it is not so silly to think that people also lived there 600 years ago. The cliffs would have offered natural protection from pirate raids, and its remoteness would have been something people hiding out from Chosun officials would have liked.

    As for the lack of water, the people could have collected rain water, the same thing that the people who live there today do. Each of the eleven families could have collected their own rain water. Ulleungdo,by the way, gets more rain and snow than any other place in Korea. Moreover, if they were short of water, they could have sailed just a few kilometers to Ulleungdo and filled up their water jugs.

    As I mentioned before, there are also other reports that mention people living on both Mu-leungdo (Ulleungdo) and Usando. I will be posting some of them in the days ahead.

  3. Gerry there is one family on Jukdo, with I think ten people. They installed a proper cement dock a spiral staircase to climb up the huge wall and proper facilites to store water.

    Carry water up 100 meters cliffs in ceramic jugs?? Lord Jeezus Gerry...One liter of water wieighs about a kilogram!!! One of those jugs would weigh like 50kgs!!

    Maybe Jukdo Island was inhabited by a colony of Chosun Gold Medal Olympic Weightlifters eh ?Gerry

    They couldn't gather an average of the minimum of 500 liters a day.

    Secondly how about fuel. Imaging all these people (15 households)needing wood to cook and heat their homes for generations while on this small rock. Not to mention for contructing and maintaining their residences. Jukdo would be barren in a decade.

    Think Gerry.

  4. While I was reading toron pepper, I have found the following description.It might help your argument,Gerry.

    As of 1930, Harumoto of Kyoto imperial university reported,when investigating Ullengdo and Chukdo, that there lived a family who worked as a farmer in Chukdo

  5. Thank you, Ponta.

    Yes, the land on Jukdo is supposed to be very fertile, which is reason enough to live there. What else does the report say about the island? Here is what my Babel Fish translation software gave me:


    1930 (1930) Kyoto emperor large lecturer spring this Atuo the occasion where it does, being attached island "bamboo island" of this 欝 mausoleum island (the bamboo 嶼) has crossed the field investigation of the 欝 mausoleum island. And, "as for the bamboo island with Kojima of circumference two kilometer and maximum of 105 meters around it is surrounded with the quay of standing upright which is close to 100 meters completely the rack does the wooden ladder in one place precipice, making use of the cavity between the wall it is the じ it is possible to climb. On being even, there is a field, one family of the farmer has lived. Calling in the human play, you call island Osamu of the bamboo island ", that it is described.


    It is not a very good translation, but it looks like there was a quay and a cavity in the wall that allowed people to climb up by ladder. Would you mind giving me a more accurate translation?

    I would like to talk to the people living there now. It would be interesting to hear the history of the island.

  6. Sorry for late response.I didn't notice


    In 1905, when Harumoto Atuo, a lecturer at the Teikoku university, carried out the on-the-spot survey of Ulleungdo.He also went over to Chukdo, which belonged to Ulleungdo.And it is described that :,
    "Chukdo is the islet whose surrounding was 2 km and whose height was 105 m at the highest.
    The ladder iss set up against one place of the precipice , and by using cavities on the precipice, one can climb up.The top is flat,and there is a field, and there lived a family of a farmer.People call him half-jokingly magistrate of the land. "

    Please feel free to ask me to translate if you don't mind my poor English.
    (The old document might take time to translate because I have to ask what it means in modern Japanese)

    Your interpretation is enlighting,more enlighting than some of Japanese interpretation.

    I am looking forward to your interpretation of 輿地考 of 東国文献備考 in 1770 and 彊界考 of 旅菴全書by申景濬.
    It seems the book seems very confusing.

    I hope Korean people cool down by reading your blog,by looking at history objectively.

  7. By the way the link above(toron) is analyzing "輿地考of東国文献備考 in 1770"
    Here is a summary as I understand it.

    1)輿地志 in 1656 by 柳馨遠 ”?”
    The book was lost.

    2)鬱陵島争界of 春官志 in 1745 by 李孟休
    Japanese until today do not claim Ulleungdo as Japanese territory.The credit should go to An
    This island is call bamboo island because it produces bamboo.
    Probably because it has three peaks, it is called three peaks island.
    Usan(干山)羽陵、蔚陵、磯竹島 are so called because of (the transformation from) the pronouciation.

    3)彊界考 of 旅菴全書 in 1756 by申景濬


    按 輿地志云 一説于山鬱陵本一島 而考諸圖志二島也 一則其所謂松島 而蓋二島 倶是于山國也
    Come to ponder it, (1)輿地志 wrote,,"according to one theory, Usando and Ulleungdo is only one land.,but considering several maps?(諸図志) they are two islands.That is, one is so called Matsushima and another is Usando.

    4)輿地考of東国文献備考 in 1770
    輿地志云 鬱陵 于山 皆于山國地 于山則倭所謂松島也
    輿地志 wrote Ulleungo and Usando are in the country of Usan. Usando is what Japanese call Matsushima.
    The Korean idea that Usan is what Japanese call Matsushima came into being with (3)(4)

    4) was based on 3)(according to英祖実録/英祖四十六年(in1770)閏五月十六日条
    and 3) was based on 1) and 2)

    There is no record that the name "Matshima" was known to Korean people before Ahn Yong‐bok's testimony in 1696.And Ahn's testimony first appears in the 粛宗実録 in 1728.

    (3)彊界考 reads: (1)輿地志 wrote......but......

    Hence it is safe to assume that (1)輿地志 in 1656 does not mention Matushima

    Another reference book on which(3)彊界考based, (2)鬱陵島争界of 春官志 in 1745 by 李孟休does not mention "Matushima" and identifis Ulleungdo as Usando,etc.
    Therefore, it is author申景濬(3)'s opinion that they are two islands: one is so called Matsushima (pine island) and another is Usando and that it is not in (1)輿地志.that Usando is what Japanese call Matsushima.

    In conclusion, (4)輿地考of東国文献備考 in 1770 misquotes 輿地志 in 1656 by way of (3)彊界考 of 旅菴全書 in 1756 by申景濬
    In your theory,
    Ahn meant Usando of
    by matushima
    "1710 Korean Map

    Notice that the 1710 map labels Usando at Jasando (子山島), which is what Ahn Yong-bok considered to be Matsushima (松島) in 1696 "

    So probably (3) and (4) are influenced by Ahn's testimony.

    In any case it is really confusing.


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