Photo/IllutrationTakeshima, the islets off Shimane Prefecture, which are referred to as Dokdo in South Korea. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

MATSUE, Shimane Prefecture--A junior high school here was in for a surprise when the day's mail arrived.

It contained numerous postcards from students of a South Korean middle school criticizing Japanese history education on the disputed Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan and claiming them as South Korean territory.

Shimane prefectural authorities on Dec. 14 revealed that they had mailed a document to the children of the neighboring country to refute their claims and urge them to “check other sources.”

Japan and South Korea both claim sovereignty over the islets off Shimane, which South Korea calls Dokdo.

According to the prefectural Takeshima response office, 36 postcards landed in the mailbox of a junior high school on Nov. 26 and five more arrived the following day.

The postcards were apparently penned by students at a girls’ middle school in Sejong Special Autonomous City in central South Korea.

“I want you to know that Dokdo is South Korean territory,” the postcards read. The students wrote their plea in Korean and English, adding, “Please don’t blindly accept what the Japanese textbooks say.” Some students drew illustrations of the islets with a Korean flag.

The prefectural government reported the incident to the Cabinet Secretariat and had its own Shimane Takeshima Issue Research Group write a counter argument in Japanese and Korean, which was mailed to the girls’ school in Sejong.

Questioning the legitimacy of past references and testimonies, on which South Korea based its territorial rights claim, the document says, “It is necessary to check other reference and historical sources.”

The document was signed by Masao Shimojo, a historian and professor at Takushoku University, who serves as a chairman of the research group.

In February 2017, the education ministry disclosed the draft of the revised curriculum guidelines for elementary and junior high school students, in which the territorial issue was mentioned and Takeshima was designated for the first time as an “integral part of Japan.”

In May 2017, 56 junior high schools in Matsue and other areas of Shimane received a similar letter from three students of a middle school in southwestern South Korea. Letters were addressed to “geography teachers” and criticized the way the history of the disputed islets is taught in classrooms in Japan.

The students in South Korea decided to write the letters after they learned about the Japanese government’s revised curriculum guidelines.

In South Korean classrooms, Dokdo is taught in connection with historical issues, such as Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, which lasted from 1910 to 1945.