June 22, 2020 12:55
The government decided on Sunday to send a letter to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee seeking to revoke the heritage status of Japanese industrial facilities where Korean slave labor was used.
The move comes after Japan opened an exhibition center in Tokyo earlier this month about the industrial facilities that completely glosses over that thousands of Koreans were forced to labor there in the colonial period. Japan had submitted a written pledge to UNESCO to reveal their entire checkered history.
Culture Minister Park Yang-woo last week told lawmakers he intends to lodge a "strong protest" with UNESCO in a letter separate from a message already sent by the Foreign Ministry.
When the 23 industrial facilities that played an important role in the industrialization of Japan were granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2015, the Japanese government admitted that Koreans were forced to labor at some of them during the 1910-45 occupation and promised to commemorate the victims and set up an information center about the brutal history.
One of the most notorious is a coal mine on Hashima Island, where at least 100 forced Korean laborers die. But the Tokyo failed to live up to the pledge. Rather, it claims in the exhibit that there was "no discrimination" against Korean laborers and exhibits pay slips in an attempt to prove it.
Chung Jae-suk, the head of the Cultural Heritage Administration, said the agency will send officials to Japan on Tuesday to assess the situation. "There is no precedent of a nullification on such grounds, and two-thirds of member nations must support it," Chung said. "It won't be easy to revoke the heritage status."
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