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Battleship Island (Gunhamdo) in Japan: Industrial world heritage or military supply base?

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By Ui-jin Lee
기사입력 2020-11-24

▲ Battleship Island was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in July 2015, because Japan promised that it would include the use of forced labour in the explanation of facilities in relevant sites. However, Japanese government has never fulfilled its promise. (c)weeklymonday

 

The South Korean government has reportedly decided to send a letter to UNESCO this month by the name of Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Park Yang-woo, calling for cancellation of the designation of 23 Japanese modern industrial facilities, including Hashima, also known as Battleship Island, as World Heritage sites.


According to Yong-ki Jeon, Representative of the Democratic Party of Korea,  Minister Park and Cultural Heritage Administration Director Jae-sook Chung made the remarks after receiving related questions at a briefing session for the Democratic Party of Korea.


Jeon said, "It is already an ongoing issue at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but the Cultural Heritage Administration and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism expressed that they also need to push it harder."  


Minister Park reportedly said, "We will take strong action separately from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs." Jeon said that he would submit a resolution at the National Assembly level, which is to call for the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to recommend the Japanese government’s sincere implementation of follow-up measures for what they promised.


The Japanese government opened the UNESCO's Industrial Heritage Information Center in Tokyo, but it did not state that forced labor was used at its industrial sites such as Hashima. Upon the listing of the sites in 2015, the Japanese government pledged to establish the center to remember the victims who were forced to labor against their will during World War II.


With regard to South Korea’s plan to send a letter to UNESCO calling for the cancellation of Japan's modern industrial facilities such as Battleship Island as World Heritage sites, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, a spokesman for the Japanese government said at a regular press conference on Tuesday morning that the Japanese government has fulfilled its promise to honor the victims of forced labor.


When asked about Japan's response to Seoul's policy, he said, "We will refrain from commenting one by one." "Japan has taken the resolutions and recommendations of the World Heritage Committee seriously so far, and we will faithfully implement the promised measures of the government, and continue to respond sincerely," he added.


To the question about if there was any notification from South Korea asking for the cancellation of the listing, he replied, "Nothing has been done to the Japanese government yet." Unless Japan apologizes and reflects on its past, the boycott is expected to continue in Korea.

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