Local gov't disturbed by prolonged absence of Dokdo resident
ULLEUNG, South Korea, Feb. 16 (Yonhap) -- A local government overseeing Dokdo has been struggling to cope with the prolonged absence of its sole registered resident on the easternmost South Korean islets, officials said Wednesday.
Dokdo, located just 90 kilometers east of the East Sea island of Ulleung, has been under effective control of South Korea since 1954, despite consistent territorial claims by Japan. Residents living there have been considered a key symbol of South Korea's control of the islets.
But the Ulleung county government is embarrassed Kim Shin-yeol, the only registered resident of Dokdo, has been staying away from the islets for about two years, due to her old age and other reasons.
Kim, 84, became the islets' sole registered resident in October 2018, when her husband, Kim Sung-do, who was called the guardian of Dokdo, died from liver cancer at the age of 79. They began living on Dokdo in the early 1970s and formally registered their address there in 1991.
The couple used to symbolize South Korea's effective control over Dokdo. After her husband's death, however, Kim's period of stay on Dokdo has been getting shorter due to her old age and other reasons.
Indeed, Kim stayed on Dokdo for several dozen days in 2019 and 2020, and has yet to return to the islets after her residence was damaged by Typhoon Haishen in September 2020.
The county government completed the restoration of her house last year, but Kim did not live on Dokdo last year. It is known that she has difficulties in mobility due to her old age.
Kim's daughter and her husband had asked the head of Ulleung County in July 2020 to allow them to move to Dokdo to live with the elder Kim, insisting she is too old and infirm to live alone on the islets.
As the county head refused to issue new Dokdo residence permits due to absence of government approval, the couple filed a lawsuit to nullify the county head's decision. But the Daegu District Court rejected the lawsuit in April last year.
The Ulleung county government has said it plans to select a new permanent resident for Dokdo if Kim withdraws her intention to reside on the islets or dies.
Besides Kim, officers of Dokdo Security Police and some county officials have been stationed on Dokdo to carry out guard and other duties.
Two county officials and two firefighters, who had been away from Dokdo during the winter, plan to return to the islets in March.
"The county plans to hold discussions on Kim's Dokdo residence after checking her health and other conditions. We're concerned, because there are not likely to be any clear results on the issue," said a county official.
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