South Korea’s foreign minister summoned the Japanese ambassador yesterday to protest over what is seen as a renewed Japanese campaign to claim disputed islands, officials said.
Yu Myung-hwan was to deliver “a strong protest” through the ambassador, a ministry spokesman said.
The move followed media reports in Seoul and in Tokyo that the Japanese education ministry will describe the islands as its territory in a revised curriculum handbook.
The curriculum is revised about every 10 years and the latest changes will be completed by July for use from April 2012, the newspapers said.
The two tiny islands in the Sea of Japan (East Sea) — known as Takeshima by Japanese and Dokdo by Koreans — have long been an irritant in ties between South Korea and its former colonial master.
South Korea stations a small unit of maritime police on the islands but Japan has long claimed sovereignty.
In February the foreign ministry in Tokyo renewed its claim in a document posted on its Web site.
The latest row could be a setback in efforts by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to build a relationship untainted by bitter memories.
In an urgent instruction Lee told the foreign ministry “to strongly ask Japan to rectify” its actions if the media reports are confirmed, his spokesman said.
The president, who took office in February, vowed to turn a new page in relations when he visited Tokyo last month for a summit.
Japan took control of the islands in 1905 after its war with Russia and colonized the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945. Seoul says it was first mentioned as Korean territory back in the 6th century.
The total area of the two rugged treeless islands is 18.7 hectares.