Japanese island curry heightens tensions with Korean neighbors | Japan

A simple bowl of curry is at the center of the last row of a long-standing territorial dispute between Japan and the Koreas.

Media in North and South Korea reacted angrily to an online report of a seafood curry sold in Japan that features mounds of rice shaped to resemble the Takeshima Islands, which Koreans call Dokdo.

The rocky islets, which lie roughly equidistant between the two countries in the Sea of ​​Japan – or the East Sea according to Koreans – are administered by South Korea, but Japan insists that ‘they are an integral part of its territory.

The feud over the islands’ sovereignty has clouded bilateral relations in recent years, as well as disputes over Japan’s use of Korean sex slaves and forced labor in wartime.

The dish features a Japanese flag planted in one of the rice mounds, which are surrounded by a “sea” of curry sauce.

North Korean website Uriminzokkiri said the dish betrayed Japanese ambitions to “capture” the islands, where a small police detachment lives alongside its only resident, Kim Shin-yeol, who lived there with her husband, Kim. Sung-do, until his death in 2018.

The dish at the center of the controversy is served at a restaurant on Okinoshima Island in Shimane, the Japanese prefecture closest to the disputed territory, and is accompanied by orders of pickles and soup.

South Korean media also reported on the dish, with a university professor telling the Dong-A-Ilbo newspaper that Japan had used “typical cheap stuff” to promote its claims on the islands.

This is not the first time that food has rekindled the quarrel. In 2017, Japanese officials protested after prawns caught in the waters off Dokdo were on the menu at a state banquet during Donald Trump’s state visit to South Korea.

The islands have even strained their ties ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, after the South Korean government protested their inclusion in a map on the Games Organizing Committee website.

The islands – also known as the Liancourt Rocks from the name of a French whaler who nearly wrecked there in 1849 – lie 225 km (140 miles) off the east coast of South Korea.

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