S Koreans swim to disputed islands

2012-08-13 10:02

Seoul - A team of South Koreans on Monday began a 230km relay swim from an eastern port to the Dokdo islands, in Seoul's latest assertion of its sovereignty over the outcrops claimed by Japan.

The team led by singer Kim Jang-Hoon plans to complete the swim on Liberation Day on Wednesday, which marks the ending in 1945 of Japan's 35-year colonial rule over Korea.

The territorial row over the Seoul-controlled islands, known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japan, has simmered for decades.

It erupted again on Friday when South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak visited the volcanic outcrops in the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

An angry Japan recalled its ambassador from Seoul and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the trip -- the first by a South Korean president - was "extremely deplorable".

Kim jumped in the sea off Uljin in a full-body swimsuit after a ceremony with about 40 university students and dozens of others, Yonhap news agency reported.

The students, all members of a swimming club at the Korea National Sport University, will take part in the 55-hour-long relay led by Kim, it said.

The singer was set to celebrate his 45th birthday on the sea on Tuesday.

"I will never make such a comment as 'Dokdo is our territory' when I arrive there," Kim told reporters before leaving. "It's meaningless to do so because they are undeniably our territory."