Geum Yi

South Korean government under fire for lackluster Dokdo promotion

September 5, 2014
A Dokdo promotional video by Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Yonhap)

A Dokdo promotional video by Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Yonhap)

The South Korean government is finding itself under fire for what is being criticized as its lackluster attempt to promote a controversial territory as its own to foreigners.

The disputed territory, referred to as Dokdo by Korea and Takeshima by Japan, found itself caught in the two countries’ latest battle over its ownership — view counts on YouTube promotional videos.

Shim Jae-won, an assemblyman of New Politics Alliance for Democracy, a liberal party in South Korea, recently pointed out the view count difference between two videos produced by each country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to explain their territorial sovereignty over the islands.

While the Korean video, titled “Dokdo, Beautiful Island of Korea,” has about 48,000 views, the Japanese counterpart sits at about 211,000 as of Friday.

The ministry said their efforts should not be judged solely based on YouTube views, as the video was meant to be used for affiliated organizations and schools. Critics, on the other hand, have said the ministry’s YouTube channel is a promotional one and that the video was made in English.

Both Korea and Japan lay claim to the islands, back-and-forth historical evidence of sovereignty going back to the 17th century.

This is not the first time the ministry has been on the hot seat for its so-called lackluster promotion of Dokdo as Korea’s own — in 2011, a government inspection found that a majority of the websites operated by 150 Korean embassies worldwide did not display information about Dokdo on their front pages.

The Los Angeles Korean Consulate General website put up a notice Saturday announcing an event — T-shirts, a globe, a map of the islands — for people who provide promotional ideas or share the video with their Facebook friends.

The Houston Consulate, too, uploaded the video onto its site, urging visitors to spread it to their American friends via online communities and blogs.

“The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aggressively promoting Dokdo, but it feels as though the Korean ministry is doing too little, too late,” said the head of a Koreatown organization in Los Angeles.