Foreign minister rebukes Japan's decision regarding Unesco site
Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong told his Japanese counterpart Yoshimasa Hayashi that he is deeply disappointed with Japan's decision to recommend the Sado mine, where Koreans were forced to work during World War II, as a Unesco World Heritage site.
“The minister pointed out that correct historical awareness is the basis for the future-oriented development of Korea-Japan relations [during the call],” said the Foreign Ministry in its statement on Thursday. “He said he is deeply disappointed with and protests the decision of the Japanese government promoting the inscription of the Sado mine as a World Heritage site while ignoring the painful history of Korean forced labor.”
The minister’s call was the latest show of protest by the Korean government on Tokyo’s move to recommend the Sado Gold and Silver Mine in Niigata Prefecture to Unesco for possible enlistment by 2023.
Tokyo says that the “history of gold and silver mining on Sado can be traced back to ancient times” and is rare evidence of “human history that can no longer be found at other mines in the Asian region,” according to its statement about the mines submitted to Unesco in 2010, to be considered in the Tentative List.
Unesco’s Tentative List is the list of sites and properties submitted by countries to inform Unesco that they are considering these sites for future nomination.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida last Friday announced plans to recommend the mine for enlistment with Unesco in 2023.
The Korean government has been protesting the decision, calling on Tokyo to first live up to its promises regarding a Unesco World Heritage site in Japan where Koreans were forced to work, namely, the sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution, before trying to enlist another.
The Meiji sites were enlisted as Unesco World Heritage sites in 2015, and include Hashima Island, where as many as 800 Korean forced laborers worked during the Pacific War between 1943 and 1945.
Following Korea’s protests at the time, a Unesco committee recommended Japan take proper measures to ensure visitors to the sites are informed of their full history. Japan in turn pledged 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," according to the committee.
However, these measures have not been carried out as of last July, and Unesco has criticized Japan for not keeping its promise.
The Sado mine is another site where over 1,000 Koreans were forced to work during World War II, which took place during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1910-1945). The mine, primarily a gold mine during the Edo period (1603-1867), was used mainly for mining copper, zinc and iron during World War II. It was shut down completely in 1989.
“Not only is Japan not implementing these follow-up measures, it is also overriding its previous actions of repenting and apologizing for its past [wrongs],” Korea’s Foreign Ministry said in its statement.
The ministry added that Chung also addressed the issues of ongoing disputes between the two countries including the compensation of the forced laborers and victims of Japanese wartime sexual slavery and Japan's planned discharge of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean from its Fukushima nuclear plant.
Korea-Japan relations have been at a historic low recently over these issues.
The Blue House on Thursday said it will address the Sado mine issue systematically and thoroughly through an inter-governmental team created last week, consisting of officials of the ministries of foreign affairs, culture and education and other agencies on heritage.
“The team will be responding to the issue in the most systemic and well-rounded manner, with active cooperation with experts in the field and our partners worldwide,” said a Blue House official in speaking with the press on Thursday.