Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What is the history of Ulleungdo? (Ch. 8)

Japanese Pirates Visit Usan-Muleung

On February 8, 1417, King Taejong gave the order to evict residents of the "Usan-Muleung" area. Though there is no record of the actual eviction or when it was carried out, there is a short, August 6, 1417 record of Japanese pirates visiting "Usan-Muleung," which suggests that residents of the islands or the Chosun officials sent to evict them saw the pirates. Here is the short record of the incident:

Source: 「太宗實錄」卷 三十四, 太宗 十七年 八月 己丑條

August 6, 1417



왜적이 우산도(于山島)·무릉도(武陵島)에서 도둑질하였다.


Japanese pirates loot Usan and Muleung islands.

The Chinese character record does not actually say that the Japanese stole anything, but I guess that might be implied in the the words "Japanese pirates."

Notice that the above record says that the Japanese looted "Usan-Muleung," which again suggests that the two islands are right next to each other and not 92 kilometers away from each other. Afterall, if one of the two islands had been Dokdo/Takeshima and the other Ulleungdo, then how could witnesses on Ulleungdo have known that the Japanese also looted Dokdo/Takeshima and vice versa? They certainly would not have been able to see it happen. Anyway, what would there have been to loot on Dokdo/Takeshima since it is essentially just a couple of rocks sticking out of the sea? On the other hand, if Usan-Muleung were referring to Ulleungdo and its neighboring island, Jukdo, then residents on both islands would have most likely known that the other had been looted. They could have seen the pirate ships, they could have heard any gunfire, and they could have exchanged information.

Again, the above record seems to disprove the Korean claim that Usan is a reference to Dokdo/Takeshima. Also, notice that Usan once again precedes Muleung, which suggests that Usan is the larger island of Ulleungdo.


  1. Gerry historically Ulleungdo and Dokdo were often referred to as one dispite what some would argue is a long distance.

    This could be because of prevailing wind/water currents which brought you there or simply the fact Dokdo was visible. Both were volcanic...

    BTW I don't think firearms were used by the Japanese until the Europeans introduced them in the mid-15th century.

  2. Annonymous,

    I do not think it was Ulleungdo and Dokdo that was being referring to historically, but, rather, Ulleungdo and Jukdo, which is less than four kilometers off the coast of Ulleungdo. I think the history I have presented so far supports my opinion.

    Not only is Jukdo close enough to be considered a true neighboring island, but it had soil and plant products that Koreans valued, unlike Dokdo, which was just a small group of barren rocks. Also, Jukdo is easily visible from Ulleungdo, while Dokdo can rarely be seen from Ulleungdo and only from high peaks.

    Yes, I think gunpowder came later to Japan, but Korea had gunpowder and firing tubes in 1416, but as you can see here.

    In the records I have introduced so far, I have seen nothing that would suggest that either Muleung or Usan is referring to Dokdo/Takeshima.

  3. I can't agree. Ulleungdo residents requently used Dokdo as a base while fishing also Dokdo has access albeit limited fresh water.

    Again Jukdo is 2.2kms off the shore of Ulleungdo and is 100 meters high with no mooring.

    There is no fresh water and at this time methods of water collection were poor.

    Bear in mind although Ulleungdo does receive the most rainfall in Korea over half of it is concentrated during the summer.

    I cannot fathom a way in which residents of Jukdo could acquire enough fresh water to sustain life.

  4. Annonymous,

    I have not seen any evidence that Ulleungdo residents were using Dokdo as a base for fishing? Do you have some evidence?

    Yes, Jukdo is 100 meters above sea level, but how do you know there was no mooring or a path leading up onto the island?

    Forty percent of Ulleungdo's moisture comes in the form of snow, which means residents also had an abundant supply of water during the winter months. In fact, I think Ulleungdo gets more snow accumulation than anywhere else in Korea, with averages of one meter or more.

    We do not know what kind of water collection methods they had, but placing jars and pots outside during a rain would have collected water. It may not be the most efficient way, but it works. Also, it is possible they could have rigged some kind of gutter system using bamboo, which was abundant on the island. Regardless, the records are saying that people lived on both Muluengdo and Usando, so they must have had a way of getting drinking water.

    Also, the records have talked about plant products coming from both islands, products that Dokdo/Takeshima did not have. That is more evidence that Muleung and Usan were not referring to Dokdo/Takeshima.

  5. But you said Jukdo Island would be safe from pirates Gerry.

    Remember it's 100 meters high.

  6. Gerry,

    I read the following text by profesor 李庚嬉 of Taiwan University.
    (written in Japanese)


    There is an island called Jukdo (竹島) or 竹嶼島 4 km apart from Ulleungdo, with 62,000 Tubo(坪) in area and 116m in height.


    About this island, 南北觀光總覽 which was published by 韓国宇成企劃出版 (10th Jan 1992, p.613) says that as an attached island to Ulleungdo, it is fertile and good for farming, and there are three families living there.

    So Jukdo maybe an island written in the old documents. At least, Jukdo is not a uninhibited island like Dokdo.

  7. Gerry,

    I found an interesting sire writeen by Taiwanese professor.

    He introduced a Korean book published in 1992, 南北觀光總覽.
    It says that Jukdo is as an attached island to Ulleungdo, land is fertile and good for farming and that there are three families living!

    You know, Jukdo is not an uninhibited island like Dokdo.

  8. Anonymous,

    You wrote, "Ulleungdo residents requently used Dokdo as a base while fishing also Dokdo has access albeit limited fresh water".

    There is no evidence that Ulleungdo residents went to Takeshima/Dokdo, on the other hand there are evidences that Japanese used Takeshima/Dokdo when they went fishing and hunting in Ulleungdo in the 17th century. It was a place to stop before going to Ulleungdo.

    I would like to ask you to show the evience if you insist the opinion above.

    Ulleungdo residents could used Jukdo, because there are soils and water - and now there are families living as I showed before, but they didn't need to go to the rock islets (Takeshima/Dokdo) sailing for 92km east for nothing.


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