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Moon expresses regret over Japan's push for UNESCO recognition of mine linked to forced labor

All News 10:30 February 10, 2022

By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in expressed regret for the first time Thursday over Japan's push to list a mine associated with Korean forced laborers as UNESCO heritage.

Moon made the remark in a joint written interview with Yonhap News Agency and seven other news wire services from around the world in his first comment on the issue since Tokyo announced plans to nominate the controversial mine on Sado Island for the 2023 UNESCO heritage list.

"Regrettably, the Japanese Government has recently begun to seek UNESCO World Heritage listing for a mine on its Sado Island," he said while addressing the ongoing historical tensions related to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

"This is unnerving at a time when we should be resolving issues linked to our history and seeking to develop future-oriented relations," he said.

President Moon Jae-in is photographed after taking part in a written interview with Yonhap News Agency and seven other news services from around the world at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

The Sado mine row has further aggravated relations between Seoul and Tokyo that have plunged to their lowest level in years due to disputes over Korean laborers and sex slaves mobilized by Japan during World War II.

The Sado mine originally operated as a gold mine in the 17th century but was turned into a facility to produce war-related materials, such as cooper, iron and zinc, during the war. According to historical documents, as many as 2,000 Koreans were forced into hard labor at the facility.

"To find a solution that can be accepted by victims and promote true reconciliation, I believe a sincere attitude and mindset toward history matter the most," Moon said, arguing that history-related issues are essentially about human rights, "a universal value of humankind."

"In order to resolve this problem, a solution must be acceptable to victims, which is also an established principle in the international community," he added.

Moon noted with regret that the two countries have yet to reach an agreement on their pending issues despite steady efforts at diplomacy.

"The Korean Government is open to any proposals and looks forward to resolving the issues through dialogue," he said, citing the growing need to also strengthen bilateral cooperation to deal with future tasks.

"Our position remains unchanged: We are always open to communication with the Japanese Prime Minister."

This photo taken Jan. 3, 2022, shows the former gold mine on Sado Island off Niigata, northwest of Tokyo. South Korea has called for Japan's retraction of a push to list the mine linked to wartime forced labor as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Japan's Agency for Cultural Affairs has reportedly been pushing to register the Sado mine, where Koreans were forced into hard labor during Tokyo's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula, on the coveted list. (Yonhap)

hague@yna.co.kr
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