[KS] Tsushima Island

Gari Keith Ledyard gkl1 at columbia.edu
Fri Oct 2 17:12:04 EDT 1998

	I think it was last June or July that the subject of Tsushima
island came up.  For several days there was quite a discussion about it. 
List members have probably forgotten about it now, but having just gone
through my e-mail after not being able to look at it for more than four
months, I find that some of the discussion provokes some comments.
	It is natural enough that many Koreans believe it was once Korean. 
Even apart from supposed historical references to something that might
translate into an erstwhile Korean sovereignty, Tsushima's mere existence
so close to Korea and so relatively far from Japan in itself almost
compels the question, how can it NOT have been Korean?  But, as several
list members noted, no Korean historical source makes any mention of
Tsushima as a Korean island during the period covered by that particular
source.  Not only that, but no Korean historical source from the dynastic
period actually CLAIMS that Tsushima IS a Korean island as a matter of
national territory and governance; indeed, mentions of Tsushima in any
context are extremely rare for the periods preceding the ChosOn dynasty.
	Some of the most concrete early Korean statements about Tsushima
are those cited in a very informative posting by Jay Lewis.  He cited the
notice in the <Samguk sagi>, SilsOng 7 (408 in SS's chronology), in which
the king, (in my translation) "heard that the Japanese on Taemado (=
Tsushima) have set up a base and are storing weapons, leather (for armor),
provisions and grain, with a plan to invade us. [He said] we should
anticipate them, and before they make their move, train some special
troops, then attack and destroy their military stores."  The king is
dissuaded by an official who argues for a purely defensive strategy
instead.  This item is interesting in that not only is the Japanese
presence on Tsushima casually stated, but it is clearly implied that the
Japanese, have not invaded YET.  That is, they are on Tsushima but not yet
on Korean territory.  And this is the only mention of Tsushima in the
entire <Samguk sagi>.  And if you believe the <Samguk sagi>, we're in the
year 408.
	There seem to be thirteen references to Tsushima in the <KoryO
sa>.  None of them mention or imply any earlier Korean possession of
Tsushima; quite the contrary.  Let us look at some of these <KoryO sa>
notices.  (1) In 1049 "officials on Japan's Tsushima"  (Ilbon Taemado
kwan) send a commander to repatriate thirteen Koreans who had been
shipwrecked.  The Japanese commander is rewarded by the KoryO court.  (2)
In 1051, "Ilbon Taemado" extradites three escaped Korean criminals to
KoryO.  (3) In 1060, KoryO's southeast naval command reports Tsushima has
returned a shipwreck victim.  King Munjong confers generous gifts on the
escorting Japanese officer.  (4) In 1082, "Ilbon'guk Taemado" sends an
ambassador with "local products" (<pangmul>).  Although such terminology
evokes tributary connotations (which may or may not have substance: no
other such usage with respect to Tsushima is found in the KoryO sa), that
fact in itself acknowledges Tsushima's status as foreign territory.  (5) 
In 1268, a joint Mongolian/KoryO embassy returns two Japanese (waein) to
Tsushima.  (6) In 1274, a huge Mongol army of Mongols, Chinese, and
Koreans (14,600 of the latter) leaves Korea for its invasion of Japan. 
The first stop is Tsushima, where "a tremendous number of people" are
killed.  (7) In 1368, the KoryO court sends a "discussion and inquiry
ambassador" (<kanggusa>) to Tsushima.  (8) In 1387, the famous
Japanese-pirate fighter ChOng Chi states in a memorial on the menace of
Japanese pirates that the islands of Tsushima and Iki are "close to our
eastern frontier (<tongbi>)," clearly seeing them as Japanese islands.
	Beyond these there are five other KoryO references to Tsushima in
connection with the pirate suppression campaigns of the 1380s and 90s. 
The clear meaning of twelve of these thirteen notices (I wish I knew more
about the "discussion and inquiry ambassador of 1368) is that Tsushima is
Japanese; no earlier Korean possession is ever suggested or implied.  Note
especially the repeated use of the phrase "Ilbon Taemado.") 
	Jay Lewis in the same posting already mentioned points out the
statement by King T'aejong (r. 1400-1418) in an edict he issued in 1419,
to the effect that Tsushima was once Korean land.  As Retired King
(<sangwang>) and still empowered with military affairs, T'aejong was then
preparing a military campaign against Tsushima.  As Jay implies, this
statement, in a context of disparaging rhetoric about the Japanese, does
not indicate when or under what circumstances it was Korean land, nor does
it say anything about using the then impending Korean military initiative
to restore Tsushima as a Korean possession. Nor did the Korean government,
after it had gained military control over the island that year, take any
steps to re-annex it or establish any Korean administration there.  The
sole purpose of T'aejong's raid seems to have been to destroy the island's
military and maritime infrastructure and terrorize the population, with a
view to emphasizing a concrete warning not to ever again allow Tsushima to
be used as a base for Japanese pirate attacks on Korea.  In this he was
successful, because from that time on such attacks petered out and soon
ceased entirely.  At least, from that time on, Korea's problems with Japan
were not in their essence about piracy.
	In connection with T'aejong's statement that Tsushima was once
Korean land, it is worth noting its timing and the audience he was
addressing.  It was contained in a special edict (or "instruction," <kyo>)
on the eve of the Tsushima campaign, addressed to the entire Korean
population, and was clearly intended to raise morale, and present the
campaign as a righteous cause.  While Korea certainly did not need any
extra justification for a preemptive attack on Tsushima--since 1360 it had
suffered continued Japanese pirate raids launched from there, many of them
massive in scale--it made psychological and emotional sense to suggest
that Koreans were fighting for something that ought to be considered
Korean land. 
	Another text cited by Jay was a notice on Tsushima attached to the
section on Tongnae (Pusan) in the <SinjUng Tongguk yOji sUngnam> (1531). 
This says Tsushima was once Korean but at some unknown time in the past
became Japanese.  The text then goes on to describe the geography and
administration of the island, using established Japanese terminology for
the latter.  It also gives a list of the Japanese daimyo there for seven
generations back (presumably from the 1480s, when the <SUngnam> was first
compiled).  Thus the bulk of this passage is devoted to concrete and
accurate detail regarding the Japanese administration of the island. 
	In contrast to the general weakness or absence of statements that
Tsushima is Korean, there is a very clear view of Tsushima as Japanese
land by Sin Sukchu (1417-1475), who as a young official was prominent in
the diplomatic delegation that went to Japan to negotiate diplomatic
relations through Tsushima and a commercial agreement (1443).  In his
later career Sin Sukchu for years held the post of director of the Board
of Rites, which was responsible for Korea's foreign relations.  In 1471 he
wrote a famous book on Japan and the Ryukyus, entitled <Haedong cheguk
ki>, "Notices of the lands east of the sea." Tsushima's identity as
Japanese is clear throughout, and in case there might have been any doubt,
Sin's map of Japan, entitled "General map of the lands in the eastern sea"
puts Tsushima prominently in Japan's territory.  He then attaches a
detailed map of Tsushima alone, the title of which is:  <Ilbon'guk Taemado
chi to>, "Map of the Japanese state's Tsushima Island."  These maps, which
are the oldest printed maps of Japan known from anywhere in the world,
including Japan itself, are discussed in my chapter "Cartography in
Korea," in J. B. Harley and David Woodward, editors, <History of
Cartography>, Volume Two, Book Two (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago and
London), pp. 235-345. 

	I visited Tsushima for four or five days in 1974, and I recommend
it highly as a pleasant place to enjoy yourself but also to get a very
interesting and different perspective on Korea.  The people there are
certainly Japanese, but in one respect they differ from ordinary Japanese
in Japan.  They have few hang-ups or "attitudes" about Koreans.  On the
contrary, they speak of Korea in terms of an important country which is
intimately connected with their history.  There is no sense of
embarrassment or condescension when Korea is discussed, as I have noticed
many times in my encounters in Japan proper.  While ordinary Japanese
might respond to me as a Korea specialist with puzzlement, not really
knowing what to say, the typical Tsushima Japanese would be more likely to
say, "How interesting that you study Korea!  I wish I knew more about it." 
They have a keen historical memory, evidently stimulated by a strong local
history emphasis in the schools and "Kyo^dokan, or local history museums,
of the 1419 Korean campaign against them, and mention the exact Japanese
calendar designation, "O^ei 26-nen" (= 1419), when they talk about it. Few
Japanese in Japan would know such a detail.  When I was in the vicinity of
Aso^ Bay, which received the brunt of the Korean attack, people would
matter-of-factly point to this village or that as places that had been
involved in some destruction or other.  Their memories also went back to
Korea's association with the Mongols in the invasions of Japan in 1274 and
1281, which also left scars on Tsushima, though without any particular
rancor toward Koreans.  
	One of my adventures on Tsushima involved going out to sea for
some night fishing with some local commercial fishermen, who happened to
be related to the geshuku (hasuk) that I was staying in.  The sea was
bright with the lights of the fishing fleet, but one could also see the
lights of the Korean boats on the horizon, and realize how easy it was to
engage in smuggling or other activities, such as infiltrating north Korean
spies into south Korea.  There was a four- or five-story building in
downtown Izuhara (the capital) called "ChosOn munhwa hoegwan" and occupied
by pro-north Koreans (who showed no interest in talking with me, although
I tried to engage them).  There are a small number of ordinary Koreans on
the island, almost all of Osaka origin or tied to it in some way.  I'll
never forget a conversation I had with a Mr. Pak in an Izuhara bar.  When
I told him there were Koreans in New York he was amazed.  "Is the fishing
good there?" he asked.  When I told him it was easier to find Korean
doctors and lawyers there than commercial fishermen, he was speechless. 
On another occasion I was hiking high up in the mountains (Tsushima is
mostly mountains, and they are very steep), it was a very clear day and as
I looked to the northwest I saw the hills of Korea stretching out
seemingly forever into the distance.  Korea looked very, very big, and
Tsushima felt awfully small.  It was easy to imagine why Korea was
taken seriously by most people on the island.
	I once read an article by a Korean writer arguing that Tsushima
was Korean because its NAME was Korean.  He etymologized Tsushima as
coming from "tu shima", which he said was obviously a reflex of Korean "tu
sOm" (< syem), meaning "two islands."  It is true that today Tsushima is
indeed two islands.  But in traditional times, Korean maps always depicted
it as a single island, and correctly so.  Between 1895 and 1904, the
Japanese navy blasted a cut through an isthmus, perhaps one or two
kilometers wide, on the eastern side of island between the great Aso^ Bay
and the Japan Strait, not only dividing the land mass into two islands but
also advancing their purpose, which was to be able to rapidly move
warships from the straits of Korea (between Korea and Tsushima) into the
straits of Japan (between Tsushima and Japan).  This capability proved
crucial during the Russo-Japanese War, when the Russian Baltic fleet,
which had spent the better part of a year sailing around Africa (England
would never have let it through the Suez canal) in order to be re-based in
Vladivostok, was smashed to pieces and sunk by the Japanese in the "Battle
of Tsushima."  Tsushima has only been "two islands" for only about a
hundred years, and the "two islands means Korean sovereignty" theory turns
into a bubble. 
	The name Tsushima has a long textual history, appearing earliest
in the Chinese "History of the Three Kingdoms" (Sanguo zhi, compiled
before 297 CE and partly based on the earlier Weizhi of ca. 250, though
the latter is now known only through quotations from it in other surviving
books).  It is written there in the same Chinese characters that are used
for the name today, namely "Taema" in Korean pronunciation.  The first
syllable, Chinese <dui>, meaning "opposite," "to face," "oppose," etc.,
was pronounced in Old Chinese (lasting down to the 2nd and 3rd century) as
<tush> or <tuzh> or <tus> or <tuz>, according to Chinese historical
linguists.  The second syllable, <ma>, comes down relatively unchanged. 
<tushma> (or variants as above) must have represented <tu shima>, not "two
islands" of course, but rather "crossing island", or maybe "bridging
island," with the tsu (< tu)  being the common morpheme "crossing," as of
a body of water.  In fact the name of the island often appears in ancient
Japanese texts in that orthography.  The name seems to have been intended
to mean a place for crossing between the Korean peninsula and the main
Japanese islands.  (Interestingly enough, the character <dui> also has the
value <tush>, <tus>, etc., in a KoguryO title found in the same Chinese
book <Sanguo zhi>). 
	The Sanguo zhi's description of Tsushima around the year 240, when
Chinese ambassadors visited it on their way to Japan, is brief.  But it
mentions officials with the same titles that it notes for Wa communities
on the Japanese mainland, and describes an island that lives on trade
between the Japanese main islands and the Korean peninsula.  The same
description could apply for just about any other time in history up to the
year 1869, when the Meiji government abolished Tsushima as an independent
feudatory and attached it to Nagasaki Prefecture, where it has been ever
	Tsushima is mentioned constantly and regularly in Japanese
historical sources from the earliest to those of the late traditional
period (we won't make any appeal to statements from Meiji times on,
although on the question of Tsushima sovereignty I find no reason to doubt
them).  These mentions are mostly casual and unemphasized.  They square
with everything else we know about the history of the island, including
from reputable Korean sources. Tsushima is Japanese, and has been Japanese
since long before the year 240. The claim made by some Koreans that it
once was Korean cannot find any validation even in Korean sources.  Rather
than persist in fantastic, unprovable claims and vain irridentism, people
who have this view should look at history in terms of plausible and
sensible judgements based on reputable historical source materials.  When
they do this, they will find that Tsushima has an interesting and
important place in Korean history, but not in Korea itself.
	It would help greatly if it were easier for modern Koreans and
Tsushima people to go back and forth and visit each other.  But
unfortunately it is impossible to stop off on Tsushima while going between
Korea and Japan, whether by sea or air.  One has to go to Shimonoseki or
Nagasaki and take a ferry to Tsushima, and if you're going on to Korea you
have to go back to those places to make your connection.  But at least
from Japan there is passage to Tsushima.  From Korea there is absolutely
no direct way to get there, except illegally.  You have to go to
transportation originating in Japan.  Southeastern KyOngsang Koreans and
Tsushima folks can watch each other's TV programs, but that's about it.  I
had the feeling while on Tsushima that the people really feel the distance
between themselves and the main Japanese islands.  There is a half-jocular
but also half-serious reflection of this in Japanese expressions (and ways
of thinking) such as <harubaru Tsushima> meaning something like "far-off
Tsushima" but connoting something closer to "out of sight, out of mind."
Korea is not out of sight or out of mind to people on the island.  If
Koreans got to know them better, they would like them.  I'm sure of it. 

Gari Ledyard
King Sejong Professor of Korean History
Columbia University in the City of New York


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