September 10, 2004 00:40
A map has been uncovered that identifies the Gando region north of the Tumen River as Korean territory. It is called the "Survey Map of Water System near the Mt. Baekdu Boundary Stone Monument." Inscribed in the monument are: "Recorded in inscription on a stone standing on the watershed of the Yalu River flowing to the west and the Tomun River flowing to the east." This makes it clear that the Tomun River formed Korea's northeastern border with Ching China. Citing phonetic similarity between Tomun and Tumen, China later stubbornly insisted that the Tomun River meant the Tumen River. Having deprived Korea of its diplomatic rights under the 1905 Protectorate Treaty, Japan, accepting such unreasonable Chinese claims, relinquished to China the Gando region north of the Tumen River in exchange for China's permission to build the Southern Manchuria rail line and develop the Fusun coal mine. This was done under the Gando Agreement. The map certifies that the Tomun River mentioned in the border stone monument exists for certain, and that Japan was aware of this fact when it concluded the agreement.
Gando, located east of the Tomun River and home to the present Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture is our territory, historically and realistically. It is no other than ethnic Koreans that reclaimed the wasteland into a livable place since the days of the ancient kingdoms of Koguryo and Balhae, and have actually lived there. Konghomjin, one of the nine northeastern provinces built by General Yun Kwan of Goryo, is said to have been located 700 ri or 280 km north of the Tumen River. Koreans emigrated to the Gando region en masse in the 19th century. As recently as 1902, the Great Han Empire dispatched an administrator to Gando, who exercised administrative control there in person. Even during the Japanese colonial rule, Gando was the stage of the poet Yun Dong-ju's poems "A Night I Count Stars" and "A Pioneer." It was an important space of life for Koreans.
It is an established theory that the 1905 Protectorate Treaty that Japan signed under suppression with its troops surrounding the palace and in the face of King Kojong's objection is invalid. Accordingly, the Gando Agreement concluded with the diplomatic rights Japan took away under the Protectorate Treaty, invalid from the beginning, ought to be invalidated. Furthermore, didn't China and Japan, concluding the 1952 Peace Treaty, agree to invalidate all treaties and agreements concluded in 1941?
We have to be prudent with a territorial issue involving sharp national interests. It is not a proper attitude for a sovereign state, however, to keep mum when a territory clearly ours has become another country's territory through a course of coercion and illegality. It would be too late to settle the issue after the country has been unified.
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