Japan is ready to nominate several mines to be considered UNESCO world heritage sites, its prime minister said on Friday, despite protests from South Korea that the move is inappropriate as forced labor was used there. WWII.
Japan’s cultural affairs agency selected gold and silver mines on Sado Island as candidates for inclusion on the United Nations cultural organization’s list in December, citing the development of traditional craft techniques. The site was also the world’s leading producer of gold in the 17th century, according to the agency.
Adding to already strained bilateral relations, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry protested the move, saying Korean workers were forced to work there during the Japanese colonization of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945, including during the WWII.
Kishida said the decision to nominate the mines, to be formalized at a cabinet meeting on February 1, was taken as what appeared to be the “shortest route” to getting the sites on the list.
“Starting the debate earlier means we can reach an agreement sooner,” he told reporters, calling the sites “really wonderful”.
He added that he did not want to make any predictions about a final decision and acknowledged South Korea’s reaction.
“We are aware that South Korea has its own views. That is why we feel that we must have a meaningful and rational debate and dialogue,” he added.
Kishida, who faces an election to the upper house of parliament in July, had reportedly been under pressure from Conservative lawmakers to go ahead with the nomination but denied being cajoled into doing so.
A spokesman for the South Korean Foreign Ministry expressed “great regret” that the Japanese government decided to promote the registration of the Sado mine despite repeated warnings from the Korean side.
“We strongly urge you to stop these attempts,” the spokesman said in a statement.
The Asian neighbors have long been at odds over a number of political and economic issues stemming from Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
A recent flashpoint has been the issue of wartime forced labor, with bilateral relations falling to their lowest point in recent years as the dispute, highlighted by several South Korean court rulings, turned into a commercial dispute and revived historical and territorial disputes.