Japan's Meiji industrial revolution sites win UN world heritage nod

5th July 2015, Comments 0 comments

UNESCO on Sunday conferred world heritage status to a number of sites representative of Japan's industrial revolution under Emperor Meiji (1868-1910), as Seoul lifted its opposition to the listing following Tokyo's promise to own up the war history of the locations.

"Just inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution: iron and steel, shipbuilding and coal mining," UNESCO announced via the micro-blogging site Twitter.

The Japanese bid to have them listed had touched off a diplomatic spat because South Korea and China say that seven of the sites became centres for deportation and forced labour during their respective Japanese occupations.

Beijing had also earlier opposed what the official Xinhua news agency calls a "whitewashing" of Tokyo's militaristic past.

In a statement to the UN cultural body, the Japanese delegation said it was "prepared to take measures that allow an understanding that there were a large number 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, and that, during World War II, the Government of Japan also implemented its policy of requisition."

It added that it is prepared to "incorporate measures into the interpretive strategy to remember the victims such as the establishment of (an) information centre".

Given the assurance, Seoul said it would not block the Japanese bid.

The announcement was made during the 39th committee session of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) taking place in the western German city of Bonn from June 28-July 8.

The 23 facilities are at 11 different sites and represent the country'ss industrialisation in the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Some of the facilities, such as the Yahata steelworks and the Nagasaki shipbuilding yard, are still partly in operation but are in need of preservation due to aging.

It is the first time that sites still in operation have been awarded World Heritage status.

The list also comprises a coal mine in Hashima, the Mietus shipyards and old steel factories in the north of Japan.

© 2015 AFP

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