The Japanese government is expected to recommend the Sado complex of heritage mines for UNESCO world heritage registration, said Japanese news media on Friday. Given a historical fact that Korean laborers were forced to work during the Japanese colonial era, it had reportedly decided to put its plans on hold as it may be faced with a backlash from South Korea. However, it was said that conservatives in the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan reacted strongly to lead the government to change its mind. The relations between South Korea and Japan will only get way worse for some time.
“The Japanese government clarified its plans to recommend mines on Sado Island as a UNESCO heritage site,” reported NHK on Friday. The Asahi Shimbun also wrote, “Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s administration has entered into the final adjustment stages of the UNESCO heritage site registration,” expecting to seek understanding of the cabinet next Tuesday, which is a due date on UNESCO recommendation. Once the cabinet grants approval, the government will apply immediately. The final decision by UNESCO is made next summer if an application is submitted this year.
Previously, it was reported that the majority within the Japanese government seemed careful and discreet about dealing with the issue of Sado mines. Prime Minister Kishida reiterated that Japan has had a complete review of what makes the goal of UNESCO registration feasible, implying that it will decide not to apply at all if there is any chance of being rejected midway. With Japan in the lead, UNESCO last year put in place a system to prevent a world heritage registration from proceeding if any member state has an objection. This translates into a possibility that Sado mines may not make it if South Korea is opposed to the registration proposal.
The Asahi Shimbun commented, “Prime Minister Kishida has put voices of Niigata Prefecture where Sado mines belong and insiders in the ruling party above anything else with the upcoming upper-house elections this summer in mind,” analyzing why Tokyo changed its directions all of a sudden. Hardliners in the ruling party put pressure on the administration by mentioning “historical war,” “national honor,” etc. Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe posted on Facebook on Thursday that it takes cool-headed judgment to see if it is more likely to succeed when the registration process is delayed further until next year, emphasizing that Japan should not shun the historical war that South Korea has waged.
South Korea opposes the registration of Sado mines as a UNESCO world heritage site describing it as an atrocious scene of forced labor of Koreans under Japanese rule. In response, Japan maintains that it has no relevance to forced labor because the range of application is limited only to the Edo era (1603-1867).