The 1870 Secret Mission Report on Chosun (Korea)

Most websites regarding the Dokdo dispute include the 1870 Secret Mission Report about how Ulleungdo and Dokdo became Chosun´s possessions. However, most of them post only the relevant passage shown below. But the report was more than just proof that Ulleungdo and Dokdo were the possessions of Chosun. This secret report and its motivation for being instigated gives us an inside look into the real intentions of the Japanese government during Chosun´s "Opening of Ports Era".

Boxed text on the right images has the title that states ݾ (How Ulluengdo and Dokdo became Chosun possessions).

During the formative years of the Meiji Government, Japan actively began to develop new diplomatic relations with Chosun. This first diplomatic mission included Moriyama Sigeru, Sada Hakubo and Saito Ei. This mission was to gather information for a few purposes such as 1. Finding out why the relationship between Japan and Chosun has deteriorated 2. Discontinue Tsushima´s payment of tributes to Chosun. 3. Investigate Chosun´s relationship with China. 4. Sending warships to Busan when the emperor dispatches his emissary to Chosun. 5. Find out if Chosun is being influenced by shrewd Russian diplomats. 6. Find out the strengths and weaknesses of the Chosun´s weaponry and navy. 7. Verify intelligence concerning the political situation of the Korean king and members of the Chosun court. 8. Potential trade with Chosun. 9. Investigate the customs and systems of Chosun.

It is interesting that these instructions indicate the ambition and assertiveness of the Japanese politicians of the day. We can see the report is made from an unfriendly point of view. So what did the study mission report to the Foreign Ministry? The officials stayed in Korea from February 22, 1870 through early March and made their report in April. First, the report states that Chosun does not maintain a tributary relationship with Japan. Second, Tsushima is apparently a vassal in the Korean system and has received copper seals (tosa, tosho) from Korea. Third, regarding the question of China, the Japanese mission reports that Chosun is operating independently of China.

At the end of the report there is a detailed history of the annexation of Ulleungdo and Dokdo by Chosun. It states:

"How Ulleungdo and Dokdo became Korean Possessions: Dokdo is a neighbor island of Ulleungdo and there is no document on file by the shogunate concerning this (these) island(s). 2. The island of Ulleungdo was settled by the Korean people after the 1690s (During the reign of King Sukjong) but it now has become uninhabited"

Here, in this historical document, is clear proof that Japan recognized Dokdo along with Ulleungdo as territories of Chosun. Japan used the expression "how Uleungdo and Dokdo became possessions of Chosun". It is also clear that Japan believed Dokdo was associated with Ulleungdo and that there was an agreement during the 1690s which affirmed the two islands belonged to Chosun.

Text cited, in part, from The Japanese Perception of Dokdo During the Opening of Ports, by Myung Chul Hyun.