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S. Korea urges Japan to keep promise to honor forced labor victims at UNESCO heritage info center

Diplomacy 16:30 June 24, 2020

By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, June 24 (Yonhap) -- South Korea urged Japan on Wednesday to take steps to keep its promise to honor wartime forced labor victims at a newly opened museum on industrial sites registered on UNESCO's World Heritage list.

Kim Jung-han, director-general for Asia and Pacific affairs at Seoul's foreign ministry, made the demand during video talks with his Japanese counterpart, Shigeki Takizaki, earlier in the day, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

South Korea has strongly protested after Japan failed to include explanations on forced labor victims at the Industrial Heritage Information Center that opened in Tokyo last week in violation of its promise to do so when the industrial sites were registered as UNESCO heritages in 2015.

"Director-General Kim expressed strong regret and lodged a protest that Japan has not fulfilled what it promised, and called sternly for a correction on the matter," the ministry said in a release.

Upon the 2015 World Heritage designation of 23 Meiji-era sites, Tokyo said it would establish the center to remember the victims in a way that recognizes that they were brought against their will and forced to toil at mines and factories in the 1940s, when Korea was a Japanese colony.

It turned out that the center focused on highlighting achievements of Japan's industrial revolution, while giving short shrift to the suffering of the Korean victims. Among the 23 World Heritage sites is the notorious Hashima Island, also known as Battleship Island, where many Koreans were forced into labor.

Aside from history issues, the two sides exchanged opinions on other topics of mutual concern, including the coronavirus pandemic, the ministry added.

They shared assessments on comprehensive efforts by each country to stem the COVID-19 outbreak and that bilateral cooperation has continued to the extent that both have helped each other's nationals stranded overseas due to lockdown to return home safely.

Seoul and Tokyo have held regular working-level talks almost every month since they agreed to resolve the dispute over forced labor and Japan's export curbs on Korea through diplomacy. But little progress has been made so far.

S. Korea urges Japan to keep promise to honor forced labor victims at UNESCO heritage info center - 1

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