Historical Figures of Dokdo
Isabu Kim : a 4th generation descendant of King Naemul and also known as Taejong
Isabu became governor of Haseulla (present-day Gangneung City in Gangwon Province) in 512 and planned the annexation of the Usan Kingdom (present-day Ulleungdo). He ordered the construction of wooden lions and loaded them on board his battleships. When he reached the coast of Usan, he told the enemy that he would “defeat them by setting loose the wild beasts if they did not surrender.” The citizens of Usan were overwhelmed with fear and immediately surrendered. <Samguksagi (History of the Three Kingdoms), Book 4>
The Usan Kingdom was a relatively small country which ruled over Ulleungdo Island and its surrounding islets. In the volume on Military in the Mangiyoram, it is recorded that Ulleungdo and Usando both belonged to the Usan Kingdom.
An Yong-bok (安龍福)
The civilian guardian who let the Japanese know that Dokdo was a territory of the Joseon Empire
While fishing around the coast of Ulleungdo, An Yong-bok, a fisherman, was kidnapped by Japanese fishermen and taken to Oki Island in 1693. An Yong-bok argued before the Governor of Hokishu (present-day Tottori Prefecture) that Ulleungdo (Dokdo) was the territory of Joseon and requested that Japanese fishermen be prohibited from fishing in its waters.
After being repatriated to Korea, he once again saw Japanese fishing boats off the coast of Ulleungdo (Dokdo) in 1696 and drove off the intruders. He revisited Tottori once more to protest that Ulleungdo was Korean territory.
The Governor of Hokishu responded to him by saying that “he will write an official message and punish anyone who crosses the border since both islands were already part of your country (Korea).” He also delivered his decisions to the Tokugawa shogunate.
Following the activities of An Yong-Bok, the Tokugawa shogunate declared a Prohibition Order forbidding all Japanese from sailing to Ulleungdo. This was yet again another historical record confirming that Ulleungo and Dokdo were both territories of Joseon. Based upon this fact, Japan’s Meiji government reaffirmed in 1877 that Dokdo was the territory of Joseon and had nothing to do with Japan.
Hong Sun-chil (洪淳七)
The person who organized the Dokdo Volunteer Garrison to defend Dokdo against Japan after Korea’s independence
When recolonization of Ulleungdo began in 1883, he moved to the island from Gangneung City in Gangwon-do. He grew up being taught that Dokdo was a part of Ulleungdo, and devoted his life for the island.
When the Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, he joined the army but was discharged as a sergeant major in July 1952 due to injuries received in a battle near Wonsan.
Toward the end of July 1952, he came across a sign which said “Shimane Prefecture, Oki District, Takeshima” standing in front of the Ulleungdo Police Station and decided to protect Dokdo from the hands of the Japanese.
From then on, he rallied up young men who had been discharged from the army and organized the Dokdo Volunteer Garrison. He purchased equipment and weapons using his own savings.
After landing on Dokdo in April of 1953, he led the Dokdo Volunteer Garrison and engaged in numerous gunfights with the patrol boats of the Japanese Coast Guard. Despite many hardships and unfavorable conditions, his activities to defend Dokdo contributed greatly to Korea’s effective control over the islets. He was recognized for this services by being awarded with the Distinguished Service Medal in 1966 and Samil Medal under the Order of National Security Merit in 1996.