UNESCO panel acknowledges Japan's efforts to explain history of Korean workers

A UNESCO panel has adopted a resolution on a group of World Heritage sites in Japan, acknowledging the country's implementation of new measures to provide more explanation on the history of wartime workers from the Korean Peninsula.

The World Heritage Committee has been holding a session in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh since Sunday. It screened the conservation state of World Heritage properties on Thursday.

The committee discussed a group of 23 Japanese industrial sites, which gained World Heritage status in 2015. People from the Korean Peninsula worked at some of the locations in the 1940s.

Japan's government set up the Industrial Heritage Information Centre in Tokyo in 2020 to explain the historical backgrounds of those sites.

But a resolution passed by the committee in 2021 said Japan had "not yet fully" implemented necessary measures.

The resolution says the committee requests Japan to fully take into account "measures to allow an understanding of a large number of Koreans and others brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions, and the Japanese government's requisition policy."

The resolution adopted by the committee on Thursday acknowledged new measures taken at the Tokyo facility. They include the establishment of a new section entitled "To remember the victims."

The resolution encourages Japan to continue dialogue with South Korea and other concerned parties and to conduct further research, data collection and verification.

It also requests Japan submit an update by December 1, 2024, on the dialogue and further measures to facilitate explanation.

A UNESCO source told NHK that recently improving relations between Japan and South Korea had given momentum to the adoption of the resolution.

South Korea's foreign ministry on Thursday issued a press release that outlined the resolution and Japan's follow-up measures.

The document expressed Seoul's expectations for a report on Japan's future additional measures. It said the South Korean government plans to continue dialogue with Japan and UNESCO in accordance with the resolution.

The 23 sites are related to Japan's industrial revolution, which took place between the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Among them is the Hashima coal mine in Nagasaki City, southwestern Japan. It is also known as "Battleship Island" for its shape.