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Document Type

Article

Abstract

The article presents a social constructivist outlook on the territorial dispute over the Liancourt Rocks between South Korea and Japan. The issue surrounding the islets better known as Dokdo or Takeshima, keeps both countries busy issuing negative critical remarks towards one another even fifty years after the formal normalization of their diplomatic relations. Nevertheless, the status quo has remained very much unchanged. Since the unprecedented official visit by then-president LeeMyung-bak in 2012, regular tourist trips to the location have gained even more popularity than before. Japan has attempted to bring the case to the International Court of Justice several times, only to be turned down by Seoul's claims that there is no territorial dispute to be discussed.

The author focuses primarily on discursively constructed and maintained ideational properties of the conflict, discussing the territory’s symbolic value attributed to Dokdo by the contemporary South Korean discourse. Using the theory of othering in the process of national-identity construction, it is argued that the image of Dokdo has been transcended by Korean nationalists beyond a mere territorial dispute. Thus the islets have now reached a status virtually equal to a modern national symbol. As such it can be conveniently invoked by the elites to fuel anti-Japanese sentiments based on legitimate grievances over shared history. This simple yet effective discursively constructed "us and them" dichotomy allows Seoul to affirm its legitimacy over the peninsula by reinforcing a much needed stable image of national identity that is specifically South Korean.

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