Japan Tells South Korea to Keep Politics Out of Unesco Bid

Hashima
Hashima, as known as 'Battleship Islsand (Gunkan-jima)', is seen in Nagasaki, Japan. Source: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Politics should not influence Japan’s application for Unesco World Heritage status for some of its early industrial sites, the country’s top spokesman said in response to South Korean efforts to thwart the bid.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made the comments Thursday, a day after South Korean President Park Geun Hye criticized the bid to Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova because the application included sites where Koreans were forced to work during Japanese colonial rule. The bid creates “unnecessary discord” Park told the Unesco head on May 20.

The spat is the latest to hurt already chilly ties between the two countries, as South Korea demands Japan show more contrition over its past aggression in Asia and 35-year occupation of Korea. The U.S. has sought to smooth over differences between its two North Asian allies in an effort to balance China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

“If the South Korean president made the comments as reported, it is extremely unfortunate,” Suga said in Tokyo on Thursday. “Political views should not be brought into this kind of matter.”

Japan submitted an application to Unesco in 2014 to register 23 sites at the southwestern end of the country, including Hashima, a former mining community on a tiny island made famous as the lair of James Bond’s nemesis in the film “Skyfall.” China, which suffered millions of casualties during the war with Japan, has also opposed the Unesco recognition for the sites.

Officials from Japan and South Korea are set to discuss the issue in Tokyo tomorrow. A Unesco advisory panel recommended the registration earlier this month and the final decision will be made at a meeting in Bonn, Germany from June 28-July 8, the Asahi newspaper said.

Japan occupied South Korea from 1910 until its World War II defeat in 1945, during which time about 150,000 Koreans became forced laborers in Japan, according to the South Korean government.

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