One piece of Japan-related news I’ve been meaning to get to—and no, Mr. Barch, it’s not Japan’s surprisingly long shlongs—is the spat involving Japan’s move to register its early industrial sites as UNESCO world heritage sites, and Korea’s anger at said move.
The Japanese recommendation calls for the listing of 28 sites with UNESCO under the title “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.” These sites include old coal mines, steel works, shipyards and other industrial facilities. That Japan should preserve and celebrate its industrial revolution—a revolution that both turned Japan into an industrial powerhouse and transformed the global economy—is natural. It’s also heartening to see a country move to protect its industrial heritage, a heritage that often finds itself in danger elsewhere.
For your viewing pleasure, here’s Wikipedia’s list of industrial heritage in the UK, Canada and the United States.
The problem, at least from the Korean side, is that the history of Japan’s industrial heritage continues beyond the Meiji period:
The Nagasaki Shipyard and the Hashima Coal Mine carry painful memories for Korean slave laborers during World War II. About 4,700 Koreans were forced to work at the Nagasaki shipyard to build warships. About 1,600 of them were killed during the atomic bombing in August 1945. At the Hashima Coal Mine, which was called a “prison island,” Koreans were forced to work for 12 hours a day in pits under 1,000 meters under water. A total of 122 Koreans died there, including those who were drowned while trying to escape. South Korea`s foreign ministry protested Tokyo`s move, saying, “Listing facilities that are laden with the pain of a neighboring country violates the principles and spirit of being a world heritage site.” However, Tokyo rejected the appeal.
Japan recommended the sites as World Heritage sites under the slogan of “the pioneers of industrialization in the non-Western world.” The West`s modernization has a dark site in which capitalists exploited workers. However, the exploitation was among the peoples of the same countries. However, the dark side of Japan`s modernization involves exploitation of Koreans and Chinese. Japan should at least show some self-reflection about the pain it forced upon its neighbors.
Oh, I think the Japanese are well aware that even the West’s industrialization involved the exploitation of a lot of third-country nationals, too, largely in the form of colonial subjects. You’d think that editorial writers for the Dong-A Ilbo would know that as well.
To be honest, my sympathy for the Korean protests go only so far. If you really want to push the issue, almost anything in Japan built between 1910 and 1945 can probably be connected with Japan’s empire in one way or the other. Mention of Japan’s use of forced Korean and Taiwanese labor should be noted, of course, but those sites still deserve listing as part of the common industrial heritage of mankind.
Japan will also push, likely next year, the registration of “Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki” with UNESCO. This is also a welcome development, IMHO, and one Korea should emulate by moving to register its own historic Christian sites—and there are a ton of them—with UNESCO. Between Japan and Korea, you’d think it would be Korea that would move faster to register its Christian sites given the much greater cultural impact Christianity—in both its Catholic and Protestant forms—has had in the country.