Japan Pushes Plans to List Slave-Labor Site with UNESCO

  • By Choi Eun-kyung

    February 03, 2022 12:36

    Japan in a startling U-turn on Tuesday submitted a letter of recommendation for a historic mine on the island of Sado in Niigata Prefecture to UNESCO's World Heritage list. Mindful of opposition from neighboring countries, the Japanese government last month decided to postpone plans to list the site, where Koreans were mobilized as slave labor during World War II.

    But the Japanese Cabinet convened a taskforce, which consists of bureau chiefs from relevant ministries, and said its aim is to promote a "correct" view of history in the international community "based on objective facts."

    That will probably open another front in diplomatic warfare between Korea and its former colonial occupier. The Korean Foreign Ministry is also preparing to launch a taskforce of officials from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and civilian experts.

    If the advisory International Council on Monuments and Sites recommends Japan's application, the 21 member countries of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee will decide by majority vote in June or July next year. A two-thirds majority or at least 14 members is needed, though decisions are typically unanimous.

    The Nihon Keizai Shimbun said Japan is likely to win support from at least 13 other member countries. Residents in Niigata Prefecture and members of the hardline ruling Liberal Democratic Party immediately welcomed the government's reversal, but the local media response was mixed.

    Right-wing newspapers such as the Yomiuri Shimbun and the Sankei Shimbun defended the decision and claimed Korea's objections are wrong.

    However, the Mainichi Shimbun pointed out that it is not in Japan's national interest to use the issue as a political football to antagonize a close neighbor.

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