South Korea and Japan have been feuding over a pair of tiny, barely inhabited (and even then, only to gain an upper hand in the dispute) volcanic islands almost exactly halfway between the two countries for over half a century. So naturally, the former used the upcoming Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang to flout their current control. And, well, it didn’t go unnoticed by the latter.
In 1905, Japan incorporated the islands, which it calls Takeshima, into Shimane prefecture, citing centuries-old territorial rights. But following post-World War II peace treaties, Korea drew up new borders that included the islands, known there as Dokdo, stationing members of the coast guard (and a single citizen couple) on the rocky cliffs. The two countries also disagree over whether the water surrounding the islands is the Sea of Japan or the East Sea.
And just to be real sore winners about it all, South Korea did this on their official Pyeongchang 2018 website:
That’s a map of the Olympic venues, which just happens to include a labeled Dokdo island—and not, for some reason, Ulleung-do, which is larger and closer to the mainland—situated in the East Sea.
For reference, here’s Google maps. If you zoom out far enough to see the coast of South Korea, the tiny Dokdo island disappears:
In case South Korea’s intent wasn’t sufficiently clear, the Olympics’ website also includes a description of the natural beauty of South Korea’s easternmost islands that includes this totally neutral line:
Dokdo holds a special place in the hearts of Koreans as they hold pride in defending Korea’s easternmost reached territory.
The trolling worked. According to reports, Japanese officials demanded that the map be altered so as not to violate the IOC’s prohibition of any “demonstration of political, religious, or racial propaganda at any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas.”
“It is unacceptable in light of our country’s stance over the sovereignty of Takeshima and over the naming of the Sea of Japan,” Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told the Associated Press. “It goes against the Olympic Charter which calls for mutual understanding and opposes the political use of sports.”
PyeongChang Olympic committee President Lee Hee-beom responded in a statement to The Korea Times saying that, “What they are asking is preposterous and not worth a response.” He doubled down, “Dokdo belongs to Korea. And we haven’t even received any official request from the Japanese Foreign Ministry.”
What’s Korean for “spiking the football”?