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Hashima coal mine and the condition to be world heritage

Hashima coal mine and the condition to be world heritage

Posted May. 22, 2015 07:35,   


President Park Geun-hye didn’t’ attend the opening ceremony for the Sochi Winter Olympics in February 2014 even though Korea is the host country for the following Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. The reason was that she had to be in Korea due to the announcement for 3-year economic innovation plan. On the other hand, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping took part in the event, exercising close summit diplomacy with Russian President Vladimir Putin. With major leaders from Western countries such as the U.S., the U.K. and France in absence, the two leaders were given even more special treatment from Russia. Only then did Korea send then-Prime Minister Jeong Hong-won to the closing ceremony.

Abe appeared in the 60th anniversary of Bandung Conference held in Indonesia in April. Even with Japan’s colonialism, the country was able to be part of Bandung Conference 60 years ago with the help of India and Indonesia. Korea, on the other hand, couldn’t attend the conference due to the rejection by then-Communist China. Again this year, Korea was not invited and President Park made her visit to South America while Japanese leader was having an unplanned summit meeting with its Chinese counterpart in Bandung, trying to improve the bilateral relations. The Korean government had no idea of such a surprising meeting between Tokyo and Beijing.

President Park met UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova who is currently visiting Korea and expressed her concerns over Japan’s move to register Hashima coal mine, an infamous place where many Koreans were forced to be drafted, as UNESCO’s World Heritage. As Foreign Affairs Minister Yoon Byeong-se already delivered Korea’s concerns to her a day earlier, it is thought that President Park didn’t have to do it again. Since the decision for the designation as a world heritage was made by member countries and the UNESCO director-general is supposed to maintain a neutral position, there is little room for Irina Bokova’s influence on the decision. For that reason, President Park’s remark is expected to bring about little effect, only causing Japan’s strong backlash.

Korean diplomats say that it would be difficult to stop Japan’s move to register the Hashima coal mine to the world heritage. Under the circumstances, a more realistic goal would be to make it a condition that Japan admits and informs the fact that they forced Koreans to be conscripted to the place. When Germany registered Zollverein coal mine where the Nazi mobilized forceful labor as a world heritage, it built a memorial establishment at a government level, which could be done by Japan as well. Today, Seoul and Tokyo meet to have a first discussion over Hashima coal mine’s registration to the world heritage. It is hoped that the two nations would not have a prolonged argument over the issue.