Sunday

Japan's aggressive PR to bolster colonial claims

Japan's Cabinet Office last week released the results of  an opinion poll that considerably raised tensions with it's neighbor South Korea.  Tokyo's  first opinion poll on South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, showed that six out of 10 Japanese view Dokdo as Japanese territory in terms of history and international law. Dokdo is also referred to as the Liancourt Islands or as Takeshima by the Japanese.

The survey is among Japan's numerous recent PR and strategic communications initiatives to publicize Japan's territorial claims at home and abroad. It was commissioned by PM Shinzo Abe who set up a new government agency tasked with such publicity initiatives.

                    
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While it may not have created too much of a furore in media internationally - important regional publications of Asia Pacific like The ChosunIlbo, Yonhap News, The Hankyoreh, People's Daily, The Global Times etc. dedicated considerable space to the findings of the opinion poll.


It is said to be the Japanese government's first such opinion poll. Until now surveys were simply restricted to the Japanese media houses. This is the most significant takeaway from this development - the adoption of tried and tested PR tools and techniques to influence media and public opinion by a government. The sample size was not too significant, restricted to 1784 people - but the sensitivity of the subject and being commissioned by the government itself is what I guess made it newsworthy. 

The wisdom of carrying out such a survey can be debated, and this might be more targeted towards domestic political interests.  Nonetheless, media houses got what they wanted with tensions rising high between both the countries and the Japanese government got the eyeballs it was hoping for. South Korea, in the meantime, registered its protest and in a strongly worded statement, Seoul's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said,
“We sternly protest the Japanese government’s decision to use a opinion poll commissioned by the Japanese Cabinet Office as a pretext for yet another provocation regarding Dokdo, a territory that is clearly South Korean on historical and geographical grounds and by international law, and strongly urge it to halt such actions at once. It is deplorable for the Japanese government to continue coming out with these absurd claims about Dokdo. Such ahistorical behavior will pose a serious obstacle to the future-oriented development of South Korea-Japan relations and reconciliation in Northeast Asia.” 
I would be interested to find out about the reaction on social media. Readers help!

For information on Dokdo islands, read the profile by BBC News on the islands: Dokdo/Takeshima islands.

Suggestions/Critiques welcome

-- Madhur

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