Seizure of Japanese Fish boats by Korean Coastguard near Takeshima


The Korean Coastguard seized 233 Japanese fish boats near Takeshima inside the Syngman Rhee Line and detained 2,791 Japanese fishermen in a detention house in Korea from 1952 to 1965. Korea released 992 Japanese fishermen in exchange for the release of 474 Korean criminals who were imprisoned in a detention house in Japan.


Takeshima is a Japanese Island located on the Japan Sea. After the World War II, Syngman Rhee, the first Korean president, begun to insist that Takeshima (Korea named it Dokto in order to justify the territorial right) should belong to Korean territory. To realize the occupation of Takeshima, the Korean Coast Guard begun to seize Japanese fish boats near Takeshima. After that, Syngman Rhee unilaterally declared a military demarcation line, encompassing Takeshima into the line, on January 18, 1952. Based on the line, Korean Coast Guard seized 233 Japanese fish boats and detained 2,791 Japanese fishermen until 1965. In total, the number of seized fisher boats and detained fishermen amounts to 325 and 3,890, respectively.

Since Japan did not own its coast guard as the result of the World War II, the Government of Japan could not stop the seizure of Japanese fish boats and detention of Japanese fishermen by Korea. Japan demanded to release fishermen.

On the other hand, the dictatorship of Syngman Rhee and the Korean War (June 25, 1950 - July 27, 1953) had caused a large number of illegal immigrants to Japan. The increase in Korean people in Japan resulted in the increase in Korean criminals. A part of them were imprisoned in Ohmura Detention House.

Although the detention of innocent Japanese fishermen and the increasing number of Korean criminals remained unsolved, the Government of Japan and the Government of Korea started a negotiation about a treaty between the two countries soon after Japan restore its sovereignty in 1952.

During the negotiation, Korea insisted that the prisoned Koreans in Ohmura Detention House should be released in exchange for the release of Japanese fishermen in Busan Detention House. This offer was not acceptable for the Government of Japan, because it meant that Japan needed to release criminals in exchange for the release of innocent fishermen. This was as same as terrorists' demand to release their terrorists in exchange for the hostages.

However, the Government of Japan finally agreed the offer because the priority of public opinion in Japan leaned toward the release of Japanese fishermen. In 1965, the Government of Korea released 992 Japanese fishermen in Busan Detention House and the Government of Japan released 474 Korean criminals in Ohmura Detention House. The criminals stayed in Japan after the release.

Why this fact affects the rightward trend?

The Takeshima problem between Japan and Korea is more than a territorial dispute over a small island. It is related to the history of illegal seizure of Japanese fish boats and the detention of Japanese fishermen, which caused serious violation of the human rights. Japan needed to release Korean criminals to take back the hostages. Koreans insists that most Koreans in Japan are people who brought into Japan forcibly during the war and their descendants, but the truth is that they are the people who illegally came to Japan and their descendants.