Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Sites in Japan granted World Heritage status after argument regarding forced laborer

Very recently, the 23 sites in Japan, including Yawata steel mill and island coalmine Gunkanjima, got world heritage status by Unesco.

They had contributed to modernization and industrialization of Japan in Meiji period. In late 19th century, Japan rapidly introduced continental technology to strengthen the productivity. A burst of innovation occurred to let Japan keep an independent country matching the Great Western powers.

It is honorable for Japanese to get the certification of world heritage status. It will also attract the attention of tourists.

However, there was a tough negotiation around the decision. South Korea and China had opposed the authorization of this grant.

South Korea claimed that Japan had to admit the fact that lots of Koreans were forced to work in such facilities before the WWII. The UN body's panel in Germany postponed a decision for 24 hours for further discussion. Finally, Japan agreed to acknowledge the use of conscripted labor.

Kuni Sato, Japanese delegation to Unesco said "Japan is prepared to take measures that allow an understanding that there were a large number of Koreans and others who were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions in the 1940s at some of the sites."

He avoided using the term "forced labor," which Korea was strongly concerned. But he implicitly admitted this fact.

This decision delighted local people living around the placed subjected. Some people criticized that Japanese delegation compromised too much.

Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary said "The government's position over those recruited from Korea has not changed," According to Asahi Shimbun, he said that the saying of Japanese delegation did not mean forced labor at all. He denied the adverse effect of this agreement on the conflict against Korea in the future.

As a Japanese, I am happy that Japanese cites were registered to world heritage. I understand the attitude of Korean expressing the suffering having inflicted by Japan. I am not sure, however, whether it is really beneficial for Korea in a long-term way.

More or less, our civilization is built on the vast sacrifices of other people. Many slaves were forced to work, and even devote their lives to create Pyramid in Egypt, Great Wall in China, and so on. I saw many artifacts in Great Britain Museum, a considerable amount of which were robbed from colonized countries. History itself has a cruel characteristic. Seeing a World Heritage, we have to imagine this accumulation of the conflicts, and to respect for the people in the past.

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