Japanese Communist Party Chair SHII Kazuo on January 29 issued the following statement in response to the Japanese government's decision to recommend a Sado Island gold and silver mine complex (Niigata Prefecture) for UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status:
The Japanese government should acknowledge the fact of the use of forced labor of Koreans during the war - nomination of the Sado Kin'zan [Sado Island Gold and Silver mine complex] as a World Heritage Site
Chair of the Executive Committee of the Japanese Communist Party
Member of the House of Representatives of Japan
January 29, 2022
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on January 28 announced that Japan would recommend a Sado Island gold and silver mine complex (Sado Kinzan) for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage status. The Japanese Communist Party (JCP) believes that the gold mine on Sado Island deserves to be nominated as a World Cultural Heritage site, however, if the Japanese government is to recommend it for listing, it must acknowledge the history of the use of forced labor of Koreans during the war.
World Heritages should be based on UNESCO's principle of contributing to "the intellectual and moral solidarity of humanity" and creating a universal spirit that respects peace and human rights. The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), which investigates and makes recommendations on nominations, has laid down the principle that "the Interpretation and Presentation of cultural heritage sites should relate to their wider social, cultural, historical, and natural contexts and settings" (The ICOMOS Charter for the Interpretation and Presentation of Cultural Heritage Sites).
As for the gold mines on Sado Island, it is necessary to present their full history, not only from the late stages of the Warring States period to the Edo period, but also from the Meiji Era onwards, including the forced labor of Koreans during the war. The claim by the government and the Liberal Democratic Party that the wartime history is "a different period, thus a completely different thing" is contrary to the purpose of the World Heritage designation. In line with the principles set out by UNESCO and ICOMOS, the entire history, including any negative history, must be presented when nominating a site for World Cultural Heritage listing.
It is an undeniable historical fact that at a late stage of the Asia-Pacific War, forced labor of Koreans under Japanese colonial rule at that time was carried out at the gold and silver mines on Sado Island. The "Niigata-ken shi Tsushi-hen 8 Kin'dai 3" [Niigata Prefectural History, History 8, Modern Period 3] edited by Niigata Prefecture points out "the fact that Koreans were forcibly taken to Japan." The "Aikawa no Rekishi Tsushi-hen Kin-Gen'dai" [The History of Aikawa, History, Modern and Contemporary], edited by the former Aikawa town on Sado Island, describes in detail the situation of the Korean workers at the gold mine and states: "The use of Korean forced labor at the Sado mines began with the national policy of wartime gold production and finally ended with Japan's defeat." It is not acceptable to deny or ignore this history.
The government itself stated to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee that it would "incorporate appropriate measures ... to remember the victims" including forced labor of Koreans during the war, when it inscribed the "Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution," including Hashima Island (commonly known as Gun'kan-jima [Battleship Island]) in Nagasaki, on the World Heritage List in 2015. Nevertheless, the Japanese government continues to fail to live up to its international commitments and last year, the World Heritage Committee adopted a decision expressing its strong regret to Japan and requested that Japan take appropriate measures to remember the victims.
If the Japanese government nominates the gold and silver mine sites on Sado Island for inclusion on the World Cultural Heritage List, it should change its attitude, acknowledge the fact of the use of forced labor of Koreans during the war, and fulfill its own international commitments.