kando59 lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties signed and submitted a bill to the National Assembly on Friday calling for the nullification of the 1909 Gando Convention, signed by Japan and Qing Dynasty China, that recognized Chinese sovereignty over what-was-then the mostly-Korean region of Gando in return for Japanese railroad and mining concessions in Manchuria. The lawmakers claimed, “For Imperial Japan to arbitrarily hand over the territory of Joseon (Korean), not its own territory, to the Qing has no effect in international law,” The lawmakers pointed out that according to the 1952 Treaty of Peace signed between [the Republic of] China and Japan, all treaties, conventions, and agreements concluded before Dec. 9, 1941 between the two nations were to be considered null and void. They also pointed out that the Protectorate Treaty of 1905, which handed over control of Korea’s foreign policy to the Japanese, was a treaty signed signed out of compulsion, and such treaties have no effect under international law, and what’s more, the 1909 Gando Convention would have been a violation of the 1905 Protectorate Treaty even if the later were recognized as valid, which it ain’t.

The bill also stated that the Koguryo history issue wasn’t limited to just history, but connoted an intention to establish sovereignty over the Gando area. Uri Party Rep. Kim Won-ung, who is leading the bill, stressed at a press conference Friday that “while the Koguryo issue was a historical one, the Gando issue is a territorial issue with its basis in international law.” He also said, “In some quarters, they worry about causing diplomatic problems with China, but doesn’t Japan send our government an official document demanding sovereignty over the Dokdo Islets every year? Our government, too, must have a firm understanding that it cannot yield its territorial sovereignty.”

Interestingly enough, Rep. Kim — who was actually born in Chongqing, China — represents Daejeon’s Daedeok district, the site of Korea’s 2000 uranium enrichment experiment. Perhaps fortunate, too, because if you’re going to start putting territorial claims on China, you’d best hope those physicists are hard at work. Anyway, I’m sure the veteran lawmaker would appreciate any support/condemnation you might have — the BBS of his homepage can be found here, or send him an e-mail at kww@kww.or.kr

For what it’s worth, the government — and the Foreign Ministry in particular — seemed quite annoyed with what it considered extremely unhelpful behavior on the part of the ruling party. This bill, which comes hard on the heels of the delivery of a letter signed by 26 Uri Party lawmakers addressed to U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar condemning the North Korea Human Rights Act, was seen by the government as provocative and coming at a really bad time considering how recent visits by high-ranking Chinese officials resulted in what the Foreign Ministry considered a start to the solution of the Koguryo history issue. One government official, speaking to the Dong-A Ilbo, said that given how the Chinese have been arguing that the “Northeast Project” started as a defensive measure because Korea was crying about “recovering Manchuria,” the bill would strengthen Chinese claims and give them ammunition in future negotiations. The paper also suggested that with Cheong Wa Dae playing it cautiously while the hardliners spout off in the National Assembly, it could make it difficult to accurately convey Korean public opinion to China concerning the Koguryo issue, and this would not help diplomacy.

Another thing is that both the letter to Sen. Lugar and the Gando bill have proved quite embarrassing to the Uri Party leadership, according to the Dong-A. The letter was delivered to the U.S. Embassy by young first-term lawmakers in apparent disregard of the party position, and when Rep. Kim tried to push the Gando bill last month, the party leadership decided that the issue should no longer be brought up. An Yeong-geun, head of the Uri Party’s 2nd policy coordination committee, said Friday, “Is Kim calling for a territorial dispute? The bill would not be passed by the National Assembly.” What’s more — and this really makes one wonder about what the hell is going on in the ruling party — newly appointed Uri Party chief Lee Bu-yeong is actually on visit to China right now, and there’s some concern that he may now have to curtail his activities. It goes without saying the Lee’s going to get an earful from Beijing officials for something he had nothing to do with.