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S. Korea to publicize Japan’s distortion of history over Hashima Island

(The Industrial Heritage Information Center)
(The Industrial Heritage Information Center)
South Korea is pushing to publicize attempts to distort the history of the Japanese historical industrial sites, including Hashima Island, inscribed on the UNESCO’s world heritage list, the country’s cultural agency said Friday.

As one such effort, the Cultural Heritage Administration published a report taking issue with Tokyo’s failure to deliver on its promise to address the full history of the island, also known as Battleship Island, including Koreans coerced into labor during World War II.

When the sites were listed in 2015, Tokyo pledged to establish a center to commemorate “Koreans and others who were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh working conditions” as recommended by the World Heritage Committee.

The Industrial Heritage Information Center opened to the public in Tokyo in June last year.

In the report, Korea’s cultural agency pointed out that Japan did not offer detailed explanations about Koreans forced into labor at its 23 Meiji-era industrial sites and it also excluded Korea from dialogue with concerned parties at the information center.

“In addition, no explanation was provided to describe a large number of Koreans and others were brought against their will and forced to work,” the agency said in a graphic material. “Instead, there were selected testimonies merely mentioning that ‘both Japanese workers and those from the Korean Peninsula and others worked under the same harsh conditions at the time.’”

“Japan should fulfil its promise given to the international community upon the Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution being inscribed on the World Heritage List,” it said.

The CHA uploaded the report, together with a promotional video and graphics summarizing the key points, on its website www.cha.go.kr and the government’s official English web portal site Korea.net. It also distributed them to Korean cultural centers abroad, the agency said.

In addition, the agency will hold seminars inviting international experts on six occasions from February to July on the subject “one heritage, differing memories” ahead of the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee to be held this year.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry also expressed regret over Tokyo’s failure to live up to its commitment in December.

The issue of Koreans forced into labor for Japan during World War II, along with Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of Koreans, have long been a source of tension in the relations between Seoul and Tokyo rooted in disputes over 1910-45 Japan’s colonization of Korea.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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