His name is Dok-do, Choi Dok-do

September 17, 2014
Choi Dok-do shows off his promotional gear. (Kim Young-jae/The Korea Times)

Choi Dok-do shows off promotional materials for Dokdo. (Kim Young-jae/The Korea Times)

By The Korea Times Los Angeles staff

Choi Dok-do knows dedication.

He lives it — from his car to his clothes to his name, the 58-year-old Los Angeles resident has given 10 years of his life to promoting and spreading word about the controversial islands whose ownership has put Korea and Japan in an unending dispute.

Koreans call the territory Dokdo and the Japanese Takeshima.

After the issue sparked Choi’s interest in 2003, he became acquainted with the Dokdo Riders — a group of college students from South Korea who toured the world looking to promote the territory as Korea’s own — for whom he provided housing while they visited Los Angeles.

On March 20 last year, after a discussion with his family, he made the biggest leap yet: changing his legal name to Dok-do.

The motorcycle he owns, as well as his van and trailer, all bear license plates that read “DOKDO.”

The Dokdo Foundation in Korea, in addition to using Choi as a promotional model, invited him to visit the territory in July and named him a Dokdo promotional ambassador for North Gyeongsang Province.

The foundation also gave Choi promotional materials, including 1,000 Dokdo T-shirts and 1,000 cellphone holders and badges.

Choi, who has been distributing these items to Korean American community organizations and the police station, said he plans to do the same at the four-day Los Angeles Korean Festival this year.

He said visiting the islands was the greatest experience of his life.

“Until now, I’ve been busy trying to spread word about Dokdo, but with the foundation’s support, I feel like I’ve found a partner,” Choi said. “As I go around promoting it, I’m happy every time non-Koreans’ interest in Dokdo increases.”