Korea, Japan to continue their UNESCO battle

By: Yi Whan-woo

Korea failed again in convincing Japan to address wartime slave labor in Tokyo’s bid to put its industrial facilities on the world heritage list in their second round of talks on the subject in Seoul, Tuesday.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the two sides agreed to work together continuously to settle their dispute over Japan’s campaign to register 23 Meiji Industrial Revolution sites as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) world heritage sites.

“The talks mainly centered on exchanging our thoughts,” a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

“There was no agreement, no settlement. We still have a discrepancy on the subject and we agreed to work together continuously to narrow down such a gap.”

Led by Choi Jong-moon, Korean ambassador for cultural and UNESCO affairs, the Korean delegation especially urged Japan to observe a recommendation made by a UNESCO advisory panel, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), according to the government.

In its assessment on May 25, ICOMOS said the documents Japan submitted in its UNESCO bid “fail to describe the complex and broad social and political changes that industrial technology has brought about.” The panel added the relevant material should be provided for complementation.

The talks between Choi and Jun Shimmi, the Japanese foreign ministry’s director-general for cultural affairs, came after their previous talks in Tokyo on May 22.

Korea has claimed some 59,000 Koreans were forced to labor in seven of the 23 sites, such as coalmines, shipyards and steelworks, during the 1910-45 Japanese colonial rule.

Japan instead has argued the 23 candidate sites across eight prefectures were evidence of the rapid industrialization of the first non-Western nation.

The two countries did not decide when to hold their third talks, the foreign ministry said.

The World Heritage Committee under UNESCO will decide whether to accept Japan’s bid during its annual session in Bonn, Germany, from June 28 to July 8.


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