SEOUL, July 12 (Korea Bizwire) — A UNESCO committee will adopt a decision next week calling for Japan to live up to its promise to honor forced labor victims at an information center on industrial revolution sites registered on the World Heritage list, an official said Monday.
The World Heritage Committee (WHC) is expected to adopt the decision between July 21-23 during the 44th annual session slated to run virtually through the end of this month, a foreign ministry official said.
In the decision, the WHC plans to express “strong regrets” over Tokyo’s failure to carry out its promise, and call for it to “fully take into account” the conclusion of a WHC team sent to monitor how Japan is implementing its promise, the official said.
Upon the 2015 World Heritage designation of 23 Meiji-era sites, Tokyo said it would establish an information center to remember the victims based on its recognition 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.”
But it only highlighted achievements of Japan’s industrial revolution with no mention of the victims’ sufferings at those facilities, including the notorious Hashima Island, also known as the Battleship Island, where many Koreans were taken to toil at coal mines.
Japan has since remained lukewarm about carrying out UNESCO recommendations.
In June, the WHC sent a joint monitoring team with an advisory body to check Tokyo’s implementation, and the team said in a report that Japan has failed to carry out its promise.
“It is meaningful in that UNESCO officially affirms Japan has failed to implement its pledges and strongly voices regrets, while calling for faithful implementation,” the official said.
Using phrases like “strong regrets” is very rare for a UNESCO decision, the official added, saying that it shows the international community has agreed that Tokyo did not keep its promise.
“We expect Japan to take specific steps for the implementation, starting with improving the Tokyo information center, and we will keep a close eye on the matter,” the official said.
The WHC also requests Japan submit its next implementation report on the follow-up measures by Dec. 1, 2022, subject to a review at the 46th session in 2023.