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S. Korea, Japan fine-tune UNESCO heritage issue

Senior South Korean and Japanese diplomats had talks here Wednesday on Tokyo's push for the listing of its early industrial locales, some associated with its wartime use of forced labor, as world heritage.

Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Hong-kyun met with his Japanese counterpart Shinsuke Sugiyama, according to the Foreign Ministry.

The meeting came as the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO will soon make its decision on Japan's bid to have the 23 coal mines, ship yards and other facilities registered as world heritage. Seven of them used tens of thousands of Koreans forcibly conscripted in the 1940s when their homeland was under Japan's brutal colonial rule.

A formal session of the 21-state committee is under way in the German city of Bonn. It plans to discuss Japan's campaign this weekend.

Seoul is not seeking to block Tokyo's attempt itself, but it has stressed that the tragic historical background should be clearly included in UNESCO records.

Among the measures considered is attaching an annotation to UNESCO documents to acknowledge that Korean slave labor existed at some of the proposed sites, a diplomatic source said.

South Korean officials said Seoul and Tokyo have reached a consensus on the matter. They would not reveal details, however, citing the need to get formal approval from the other members of the World Heritage Committee.

The deputy foreign ministers of the two sides "had final-stage consultations on the issue," the ministry said.

They also discussed other pending issues to follow up with the foreign ministerial talks last month, it added.

Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se visited Tokyo on the occasion of the 50th anniversary since the Northeast Asian neighbors normalized their diplomatic ties.

He had talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

In his Tokyo trip, the first since taking office in early 2013, Yun produced a breakthrough in efforts to resolve the dispute over the world heritage issue. But there was no report of progress in another row over Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.