hmm. while I don't have much to add to the dokdo issue for now, Jay presents an interesting question: when DID Dokdo start to become such a big deal?
I'd be interested to read a history of Dokdo blow-ups in the Korean media, and see how the press' handling of Dokdo sovereignty claims has changed over the years.
You could spend a few chapters on that, and I don't have the answer, but it did remind me of an article I read recently while looking for something else. From an October 7, 1953 AP report in the Prescott Evening Courier:
A Japanese patrol boat has planted a marker on the uninhabited Takeshima Island, about midway between Japan and Korea, proclaiming it Japanese territory, it was announced today.
South Korea also claims the island and South Korean navy sources in Seoul said a ROK boat is en route to Takeshima to tear the Japanese marker down.
That's one of the first mentions of the islets in western media, though it's not the first newsworthy incident in the 20th century. Five days later, South Korea did what it often does when the dispute is in the news; from the AP via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune:
A party of 24 South Korean scientists and mountaineers left yesterday aboard a Navy freighter for Takeshima, an uninhabited islet in the Sea of Japan claimed by both Japan and South Korea.
The trip is being sponsored by the South Korean government in order to provide geographical data about the barren island, which lies roughly midway between Japan and South Korea.
The October 7th story is among the first I could find mentioning the Liancourt Rocks in the western media. There are others around the time, but they're pay-per-view. "Tokto" doesn't show up with much frequency until the 90s, when Korea's English-language papers started writing about it.