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Japan may delay listing mine with Korean forced laborers as Unesco site
2022-01-23
Japan may delay its plan to recommend the Sado mine, where Koreans were forced to work, as a Unesco World Heritage site, according to local media reports in Tokyo.
 
“The government intends to put off recommending the Sado Gold Mine as a possible Unesco World Heritage site, on the grounds that opposition from South Korea is likely to jeopardize the site’s designation at a 2023 meeting,” reported Japan News, the English daily of Yomiuri Shimbun, on Thursday. 
 
The paper cited concerns that it will be very difficult for Japan to later push for the site’s enlistment if it is rejected once by a Unesco committee, and that the Japanese government intends to bide its time and prepare more before it recommends the site for consideration “in 2024 or later.”
 
Japan had been considering recommending the mine as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2023, a move that the Korean government has strongly objected. Over 1,000 Koreans were said to have been forced to work at the mine after the outbreak of World War II. The mine, primarily a gold mine during the Edo period (1603-1867), was used mainly for mining copper, zinc and iron during WWII. It was shut down completely in 1989.

Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Dec. 28 summoned Kazuo Chujo, director of the Public Information and Cultural Center at the Japanese Embassy, to protest Japan's move.
 
“The Korean government finds it deeply deplorable that while the Japanese government has not fully implemented the World Heritage Committee’s decisions and its own pledge concerning the ‘Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution,’ Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs has designated the ‘Sado mine,’ another site where Koreans were forced to work, as a candidate for inscription on the Unesco World Heritage List; and calls for its immediate retraction,” the ministry said in its statement in December.
 
It said that the Korean government will “sternly respond” to any effort to register sites where people were forced to work against their will as a Unesco World Heritage site “without sufficient explanation of such historical facts.”
 
Korea previously protested Unesco's inclusion of 23 sites related to the Meiji Industrial Revolution as world heritage sites in Japan in 2015. The sites include Hashima Island, where as many as 800 Korean forced laborers worked during the Pacific War between 1943 and 1945, according to the Korean government.
 
In turn, Japan pledged under a World Heritage Committee recommendation to make sure to convey the "full history of each site," adding that it is prepared to take measures to "allow an understanding that there were a large number of Koreans and others who were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions in the 1940s at some of the sites."
 
Last July, Unesco called out Japan for not keeping its promise.
 
There is now also a new process for recommendations and enlistments at Unesco that may be of concern for Japan.
 
“Unesco introduced a framework for its Memory of the World Register last year under which countries concerned can raise objections to a candidate,” reported Japan News. “The measure was led by the Japanese government, after it opposed the addition of China’s ‘Documents of Nanjing Massacre.’”
 
The documents were registered by Unesco as a Memory of the World in 2015. Japan protested the decision, calling the Chinese documents biased, and even withheld its annual funding to Unesco the next year, though the government denied it was about the registration of the documents.
 
Beijing and Tokyo have different accounts on the invasion of the Japanese imperial army of the Chinese city Nanjing in 1937, when the Japanese troops killed tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of people in the city.
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