Japan’s Shameless Move
:Tokyo must reconsider World Heritage bid for Sado mine linked to wartime forced labor
It is unfortunate that the Japanese government took a step on Tuesday to list a gold mine linked to wartime forced labor as a UNESCO World Heritage site, as there are fears the seemingly politically motivated attempt will worsen already charged relations. of problems with South Korea.
The Japanese government submitted a letter of recommendation for the gold and silver mines on Sado Island, as Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s cabinet gave the green light to the 2023 UNESCO heritage site, despite strong opposition from South Korea.
Seoul immediately expressed “strong regret” over Tokyo’s decision which has drawn widespread condemnation from the Korean media and the public, with many calling it a “shameful act”.
Historical documents show that more than 1,000 Koreans were forced to do forced labor in the mine on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture during the Japanese colonization of Korea between 1910 and 1945.
The Japanese government denies this historical fact regarding Sado Island, as it does with other cruelties it committed in the past, even though a historical book published in Niigata prefecture mentions forced labor by Koreans.
Japan’s decision to list the site as an Edo period (1603-1867) heritage site is nothing more than a veiled attempt to cover up the brutality that took place during its rule of Korea.
For Koreans, the Sado mine is one of many sites that illustrate the atrocities of Japanese colonialism amid the long-held view that Japan has yet to issue a sincere apology and offer adequate compensation.
Japan’s bid for UNESCO appears to be politically motivated. Previously, Japan considered delaying the Sado mine’s nomination as a UNESCO heritage site due to strong protest from South Korea. But Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, as well as former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have pushed to seek heritage designation.
The radical change of the Japanese government is designed to take the heritage list as a factor that could influence conservative voters in the elections scheduled for Japan. This political calculation, which is sure to stir up the diplomatic dispute again, even invites criticism from some Japanese media.
It adds to already icy Seoul-Tokyo relations that have been marred by their history of war, trade disputes, Japan’s plan to dump radioactive water into the ocean and its continuing claim to Korea’s easternmost islet, Dokdo.
Japan’s latest move also reminds observers that it failed to deliver on its earlier promise for a similar estate designation case. In 2015, Japan added a coal mine in Nagasaki Prefecture to the World Cultural Heritage list. At the time, he said he would let the world know that many Koreans were trapped in forced labor in the mine. Japan, however, broke its own promise and even removed the term “forced labor” from its 2017 report submitted to UNESCO.
This is why the World Heritage Committee unanimously adopted a resolution in July last year calling on Japan to keep its promise.
Japan’s way of dealing with its dark past is often a mixture of denial and shameful distortion of historical facts, although provocative behavior such as the attempted listing of the Sado mine could worsen relations with its neighboring country and further undermine its international reputation.
It is also disconcerting that, according to a Japanese media outlet, Tokyo takes into consideration the recent “achievement” of being delisted in 2015, despite strong protests from Seoul.
But Japan’s attempt could fail if South Korea continues to protest the heritage listing, since UNESCO adopted a new system last year that delays the deliberation schedule indefinitely when a dispute arises.
The Korean government, which launched a task force last month, must take all possible diplomatic measures to prevent Japan from repeating its shameful acts.