Seoul protests Tokyo for neglecting forced labour in UNESCO report

04-Dec-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued regrets Tuesday, condemning Tokyo’s neglect of its pledge to commemorate victims of wartime forced labour in a UNESCO report.

“We express regrets over the fact that despite Japan’s pledge to recognise that Koreans were forced to work [during World War II], and take steps to commemorate the victims, it again did not include related content in the latest report,” the ministry said in a press release. “The government urges Japan to faithfully carry out follow-up steps to commemorate the victims of forced labour in line with the World Heritage Committee’s recommendation and its pledge before the international community.”

On Monday, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage Centre posted Japan’s State of Conservation Report that contains no reference to its promise it made earlier when its 23 Meiji industrial sites, including the notorious Hashima Island, were put on UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites list in July 2015.

The report contradicted the Japanese government’s earlier pledge that it would commemorate Korean forced labour victims.

Of the 23 Meiji sites, seven sites, including Hashima Island, were found to have been locations where Koreans were forced into hard labour during the Japanese occupation.

UNESCO’s decision to add the seven sites to its World Heritage Sites list drew fierce public outcry in South Korea in 2015. In response to South Korea’s opposition at that time, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee called for Tokyo to come up with “an interpretive strategy that allows an understanding of the total history of each site.”

The Japanese government complied with the committee’s demand, promising it would take necessary steps, including carrying out “dialogue between concerned parties” and establishing an “information centre” to commemorate forced labour victims at the sites.

In its first conservation status report in 2017, Tokyo failed to include terms such as “forced labour” while claiming instead that “exhibitions would aid the understanding that people from the Korean Peninsula made contributions at Japan’s industrial sites.”

During its annual meeting in Bahrain in July 2018, UNESCO urged Japan once again to fulfill its promise and submit another conservation status report by December 2, 2019.

Hashima Island, also known as Battleship Island, was notorious during the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula.

Beginning in the 1930s and continuing until the end of World War II, conscripted Korean civilians and Chinese prisoners of war had been forced to work under very harsh conditions and brutal treatment at as forced labourers under Japanese wartime mobilisation policies, according to reports. Hashima was the site of a coal mine owned by Mitsubishi.

During this period, it is estimated that about 1,300 conscripted labourers died on the island due to various dangers, including underground accidents, exhaustion and malnutrition.


Category: Korea

Print This Post