An acquaintance of mine visited Ulleungdo Island, a volcanic island in the Sea of Japan over which Japan and Korea are locked in a territorial dispute. Three Japanese politicians aiming to visit Ulleungdo last month were denied entry into Korea, but Japanese are normally able to tour the island. There is even a tourist website for the island that targets Japanese.

So imagine my friend’s shock when he landed on Ulleungdo and was greeted by a banner that read:

Forget about other people’s territory. Worry about your own unstable land!

Surely, “terrritory” refers to Takeshima Island, which Koreans call Dokdo. At first, I thought that “unstable” was a jab at Japan’s ever-changing political landscape, but since the word “land” followed, I realized that this was a literal reference to Japan’s immense suffering due to the Great Tohoku Earthquake.

My friend showed me a picture of this banner, and I was taken aback. The Republic of Korea sent troops and emergency aid to Japan in the wake of this year’s disasters. It was a compassionate, touching move, but hanging such an inhumane banner within the borders of their country is a deeply hurtful move.

I’m sure that there are many explanations for this banner in Korea, and that it might stir up national sentiment. However, the words are nonsense, and it is incredibly saddening that such an incendiary sign would hang against one’s neighbor.