Friday, May 19, 2006

What is the history of Ulleungdo? (Ch. 6)

Kim In-u Returns from "Usando," not Mu-leungdo

In 1416, Kim In-u was appointed Inspector of the Mu-leungdo region and sent to Mu-leungdo (Ulleungdo) to bring back the people living there. Koreans feared that settlers on the island would invite raiding Japanese pirates. In 1417, Kim In-u returned from his inspection trip, but the record says that he returned from Usando, not Mu-leungdo, suggesting that "Usando" was the name then being used for Ulleungdo.

Here is the 1417 passage from the Records of King Taejong:

Source: 「太宗實錄」卷 三十三, 太宗 十七年 二月 壬戌條

February 5, 1417

按撫使金麟雨還自于山島, 獻土産大竹、水牛皮、生苧、綿子、檢樸木等物, 且率居人三名以來。 其島戶凡十五口, 男女幷八十六。 麟雨之往還也, 再逢颶風, 僅得其生


안무사(按撫使) 김인우(金麟雨)가 우산도(于山島)에서 돌아와 토산물(土産物)인 대죽(大竹)·수우피(水牛皮)·생저(生苧)·면자(綿子)·검박목(檢樸木) 등을 바쳤다. 또 그곳의 거주민 3명을 거느리고 왔는데, 그 섬의 호수[戶]는 15구(口)요, 남녀를 합치면 86명이었다. 김인우가 갔다가 돌아올 때에, 두 번이나 태풍(颱風)을 만나서 겨우 살아날 수 있었다고 했다.


Inspector Kim In-u returned from Usando and brought local products as tribute, including large bamboo, seal skins, raw ramie cloth, silk wool, and 검박목. He also brought back three residents of the place. There were fifteen families living on the island for a total of 86 men and women. On his way back from the island, Kim In-u ran into two typhoons and barely made it back alive.

Notice that the passage says that Kim In-u returned from Usando, not Mu-leungdo, where he was ordered to go by King Taejong. This suggests that the residents of Ulleungdo were calling the island "Usando," not "Mu-leungdo." This would explain why twelve people who came by boat to the mainland in 1412 said they were from Yusanguk-do, which was most likely a misspelling of Usanguk-do. They also said they had grown up on a neighboring island called "Mu-leungdo." You can see a post on that incident here.

In previous records, Ulleungdo had been referred to by various names, including Usan-guk, which means the "Country of Usan," but the above passage was the first time that Ulleungdo had been referred to as Usando, which means the "Island of Usan." This is significant because it is saying Usan is an island, not a country that could possibly included some rocky islets ninety-two kilometers away. Actually, in 1412, there was already a suggestion that "Usan" was an island, not a country, when residents of Ulleungdo referred to their island as "Yusanguk-do," which means the "Island of Yusanguk."

Koreans claim that Usando is Dokdo/Takeshima, but Dokdo/Takeshima is just a group of rocks with no soil to grow any of the products that the record says that Kim In-u brought back from the island. Koreans have tried to explain away the discrepancy by saying that Usan refers to a country, not an island, but the above record clearly says that Usan was an island, not a country. Even the Samguksagi said that Usan-guk was just another name for Ulleungdo. You can see another post on the subject here.

By 1417, records show that Ulleungdo was made up of two islands, one main island and a smaller neighboring island. Though there seems to be some confusion about the names of the islands, records in 1412 and 1417 suggest that the name of the main island was Usando, that its neighboring island was Mu-leungdo, and that both islands had settlers on them at one time or another. In future records, these names will be used together to refer to the Ulleungdo island group, and Usando will often be listed first, suggesting that it is the larger of the two islands. So far, there has been nothing in the records to suggest that either Usando or Mu-leungdo is a referrence to Dokdo/Takeshima.


  1. Mr. Bevers,

    I noticed there aren't any posts since the first chapter fight you had in the comments, but I just wanted to say that I've read all of your posts on the subject and have never seen the arguments laid out so well. Thanks for the invaluable reference, it's really been quite edifying to see all of the arguments laid out so succinctly.

  2. Thanks Bill,

    I hope I can continue to make sense in future posts. It is a confusing history, and putting it together is like following the directions on a treasure map. If you skip over one of the clues, you may end up taking your fifty paces in the wrong direction.

    I want to know the truth, but I have to be careful that I do not force the pieces together to make the truth that I am looking for. Let me know when you think I might be doing that.

    Take care.

  3. Bill, what's to post about?

    Gerry still insists that 15 families (86 people) lived on a 100 meter rock about the size of a few football fields without fresh water for hundreds of years!!

    What colour is the sun on your planet Gerry?

  4. Dear Mr Gerry. Hello. My name is Akiko and I live in Hamada City. My friends at University are wanting some informations because we want to fight for Japan's Takeshima.
    You seems kindly and we think you can help us because we can't read Korean.
    I read you translate some Chinese before can you translate this so we can prepare for our Takeshima group ?
    Here is the writing
    독도는 조선시대에는 삼봉도(三峰島), 우산도(于山島), 가지도(可支島)라고 불렀으며, 기인 1899년(광무 3)에 당시 중등과정 신식교육기관에서 활용됐던 제 1권에 삽입돼 있는 지도 대한전도에는 울릉도 옆에 '于山'이라는 표기 강원도 울진현에 속해 있던 독도를 1900년 고종황제의 칙령 41조에 의해 독도를 울릉군의 한 부속도서로서 공식적으로 강원도에 편입하였다.
    Please can you do fast?
    Thank you Akiko Y.(autumn child)

  5. Thank you, Akiko,

    I can translate Korean, and read a little Chinese. Anyway, here is the translation you asked for.

    During the time of Chosun, Dokdo was called Sambongdo, Usando, and Gajido. In a 1899 (Kojong's third year as emperor) middle school textbook (Volume one) used at a "New Learning" school, a map of Imperial Korea is inserted. The map shows Usan drawn next to Ulleungdo. Usan was part of Uljin-hyeon in Kangwon Province. In 1900, Emperor Kojong officially made Usan a part of Kangwon Province when he made Dokdo a part of Ulsan County under Edict 41.

    By the way, that is bad information. "Dokdo" was not mentioned in Edict 41. It was "Sokdo," which Koreans claim, without any proof, was "Dokdo"; Also, the Usan on the map could not have been Dokdo (Takeshima) since it drawn right next to Ulleungo, and both are west of the 131 degree longitude line. Dokdo/Takeshima is far east of the line. The Usan island on the map is almost definitely the Korean island of Jukdo, which is less than four kilometers off the coast of Ulleungdo.

    In case you are interested, here is a link to a Web site that might help you in your debate:

    Good luck.

  6. Annonymous,

    The Chosun records said Koreans lived on a neighboring island of what most certainly was Ulleungdo, and Jukdo is the largest neighboring island of Ulleungdo. It has about 52 acres of very fertile land.

    As I mentioned before, Ulleungdo gets more rainfall than any other place in Korea, so the families on Jukdo during the Chosun Dynasty could have collected rainwater and snow, just as the people who live there today do. If they had needed to, they could have also gone a few kilometers to Ulleungdo to collect water. Many people in the world today live in much more harsh environments.

  7. Good work, Gerry. Why is it that people are getting angry at you just because they have no logical arguments to refute what you are writing? Some of the people you have been debating with have been wrong on 10 or more points, but still keep trying to make more. It seems their method of debate is to flood you with so much useless and false information that you will become to tired to answer.

    By the way, if Koreas claim to Takeshima/Dokdo was as firm as they claim, then the claim would not require endless rationalization and innaccurate maps.

  8. Matt what points have others been wrong about?

  9. I have reevaluated my Ch. 5 post and rewrote my description as follows:


    In the above passage, Bak Seup gives a description of Mu-leungdo (Ulleungdo) based on information he heard while he was governor of Kangwon Province. Bak Seup's term as governor started in 1411, which means that the information he heard was probably pre-1411. Anyway, he said he heard that Mu-leungdo had a circumference of seven sik and a small, neighboring island. The small, neighboring island was most likely present-day Jukdo, which is Ulleungdo's largest neighboring island and less than four kilometers off its eastern shore. However, the information that comes next is somewhat confusing. Is the information on the farmland and the path leading onto the island referring to Mu-leungdo (Ulleungdo) or to the small island? I think it is referring to the small island.

    The passage said that the island had fifty kyeol of farmland, and only one narrow path leading onto it. I am not sure how much fifty kyeol of farmland is, but there are several paths leading onto Ulleungdo while there is only one path leading onto present-day Jukdo. If the information about the farmland and the path were referring to the small island, then that means that the small island could not have possibly been Dokdo/Takeshima since Dokdo/Takeshima has no farmland or even soil to grow plants. It would also mean the fifteen families mentioned in the passage had been living on the small island. Nevertheless, Korean historians say that the "small island" mentioned in the passage was Dokdo/Takeshima, ignoring the fact that Jukdo is just offshore of Ulleungdo, and that Dokdo/Takeshima is ninety-two kilometers away and has no farmland.

    The Mu-leungdo in the above passage is obviously referring to Ulleungdo, while the "small, neighboring island" seems to be referring to present-day Jukdo. This is different from the 1412 A.D. passage, which implied that Mu-leungdo was the smaller neighboring island. Since the 1412 description was direct testimony by former residents of the island and the 1416 information was hearsay, I would tend to believe the 1412 information, at least in regard to the name of the smaller island. Regardless of the name confusion, the 1416 passage does confirm that Chosun officials at the time knew that Ulleungdo had a neighboring island. Moreover, it seems to confirm the 1412 passage by suggesting that the neighboring island had farmland and inhabitants, which means the small, neighboring island could not have been Dokdo/Takeshima.

  10. Thanks Matt.

    I do not mind people debating me because it keeps me on my toes and motivates me to study the subject more diligently. Also, it is good to show competing claims and let readers make up their own minds. However, I do sometimes get tired of correcting people who intentionally distort the facts, which is one reason I am trying to cover all the evidence in my posts.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.