On June 19, 1436, Gangwondo Governor Yu Gye-mun proposed that people be sent to settle "Muleungdo's Usan." It was reported that his request was denied, but, based on the following record, the governor apparently made another request, which King Sejong responded to in the record below:
Source:『世宗實錄』 卷 七十六, 世宗 十九年 二月 八日 戊辰條Notice that in the above record, King Sejong said that the governor made a request in the fall of 1436 to settle "Muleungdo," but according to this June 19, 1436 record, the governor actually made a request to settle "Muleungdo's Usan." This suggests that King Sejong either considered Muleungdo and Usan to be the same place or considered Muleungdo as an island group of which Usan was a part. At the time of the above record, it had already been established that Muleungdo and Usando were separate, neighboring islands, so I think King Sejong was using Muleungdo to refer to the two islands as an island group. By the way, I do not understand why King Sejong said the request was made in the fall when the record reporting the request was dated June 19. It appears that there may have been two or three requests from the governor.
February 8, 1437
傳旨江原道監司柳季聞 去丙辰秋 卿啓 茂陵島土地膏腴 禾穀所出 十倍陸地 且多所産 宜設縣置守 以爲嶺東之藩籬 即令大臣僉議 並云此島 遠於陸地 風水甚惡 不宜蹈不測之患 以設郡縣 故姑寢其事 卿今又啓云 聞諸古老 在昔倭奴來住 連年侵掠 嶺東蕭然 予亦以爲 曩者倭奴陸梁 居于對馬島 尙且侵掠嶺東 至于咸吉道 茂陵島無人日久 今若倭奴先據 則將來之患 亦未可知 其設縣置守 徙民實之 則勢固難矣 每歲遣人 或探島內 或採土産 或爲馬塲 則倭奴亦以爲大國之地 必不生竊據之心 在昔倭奴來住之時 何代耶 所謂古老者幾人耶 若欲遣人 則風水調順 何時何月耶 入歸之時 裝備之物 舟楫之數 備悉訪問以啓
강원도 감사 유계문(柳季聞)에게 전지하기를, “지난 병진년 가을에 경이 말하기를, 무릉도(茂陵島)는 토지가 기름져서 곡식의 소출이 육지보다 10배나 되고, 또 산물이 많으니 마땅히 현(縣)을 설치하여 수령을 두어서 영동의 울타리를 삼아야 한다고 하였으므로, 곧 대신으로 하여금 여러 사람과 의논하게 하였더니, 모두 말하기를, 이 섬은 육지에서 멀고 바람과 파도가 매우 심하여 예측할 수 없는 환난을 겪을 것이니, 군현을 설치하지 않는 것이 마땅하다고 하므로 그냥 그대로 두었더니 경이 이제 또 말하기를, 고로(古老)들에게 옛날에 왜노들이 와서 거주하면서 여러 해를 두고 침략하여, 영동(嶺東)이 빈 것 같았다는 말을 들었다고 한다. 내가 역시 생각하건대, 일찍이 왜노들이 날뛰어 대마도에 살면서도 오히려 영동을 침략하여 함길도에까지 이르렀었는데, 무릉도에 사람이 없는 지가 오래니, 이제 만일 왜노들이 먼저 점거(點據)한다면 장래에 어떠한 우환이 생길지 알 수 없을 것이다. 현을 신설하고 수령을 두어 백성을 옮겨 채우는 것은 지금 형세가 어려우니, 매년 사람을 보내어 섬 안을 탐색(探索)하거나, 혹은 토산물을 채취(採取)하고, 혹은 마장(馬場)을 만들면, 왜노들도 대국의 땅이라고 생각하여 반드시 몰래 점거하려는 마음이 들지 않을 것이다. 옛날에 왜노들이 와서 산 때는 어느 때이며, 소위 고로(古老)라고 하는 사람들은 몇 사람이나 되며, 만일 사람을 보내려고 하면 바람과 파도가 순조로운 때가 어느 때 어느 달이고 섬에 들어갈 때에는 장비(裝備)할 물건과 배의 수효를 자세히 조사하여 보고하라” 고 하였다.
The king wrote to Gangwon Provincial Governor Yu Gye-mun:
"In the autumn of 1436, you said that because the land of Muleungdo was so fertile that crop yields were ten times greater than the mainland and that because it had many products, it would be an good place to set up a hyeon (an administrative district) with a magistrate. You said we should consider it as a fence for the Yeongdong region (eastern Gangwon Province). I immediately had the ministers discuss the issue with several people and all of them said, 'The island is too far from the mainland and the wind and waves are so severe that unforeseen difficulties would likely occur and, therefore, would be unsuitable for the establishment of a settlement. They recommended that it be left as it is.'"
"Now you say that you have heard from elderly residents that Japanese pirates used to come there and live for several years while raiding the Youngdong region, which left the area almost empty. I also think that Japanese pirates used to run wild while living on Daemado (Tsushima), raiding the Yeongdong region and even up to Hamgil Province. It has been a long time since people have been on Muleungdo, so if Japanese pirates have already occupied the island, then there is no telling what misfortunes lie ahead. However, now the circumstances are too difficult to set up a new hyeon, appoint a magistrate, and move citizens there. Instead, if we sent people to search the island each year and also gathered local products or set up a grazing area for horses, Japanese pirates may think the land belonged to us and think twice about secretly occupying it."
"How long ago was it that Japanese pirates came and lived there? How many of these so-called elderly people are there? If we are going to send people, when are the wind and waves calm? Which month? If we go onto the island, what kind of equipment will we need and how many ships? Investigate thoroughly and report."
The king seemed to sympathize with the governor's belief that settling "Muleungdo" would help protect the mainland from Japanese pirates, but the king, nevertheless, turned down the governor's request, saying that circumstances were too difficult at the time. I think the king was referring to the fact that 1436 was a famine year in Chosun Korea.
Instead of settling Muleungdo, the king suggested that yearly inspections be made and that signs of harvesting and maybe even a horse pasture be left behind to give the impression that the land was already claimed. At the time, Chosun Korea seemed more interested in scaring away Japanese pirates than in expanding territory.
All the evidence up until this time suggests that Muleungdo and Usando were neighboring islands close enough to be considered essentially one island. Both names have been used to refer to land that was fertile and suitable for settlement. That means that neither island could have been Dokdo/Takeshima, which is basically just a couple of barren rocks.