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Visitors flock to UNESCO World Heritage Site recommendations

37 Comments

Visitors on Tuesday flocked to some of the sites in Japan that have received UNESCO endorsement for World Heritage Site status.

Crowds, taking advantage of the Golden Week holidays, toured the sites, following Monday's announcement by a UNESCO panel recommending that 23 properties in eight prefectures be put on the its World Heritage list for their importance to Japan's industrial revolution and modernization in the Meiji era.

Japan currently has 19 sites on the World Heritage list.

The new list includes a coal mine on the Nagasaki Prefecture island of Hashima, known as Gunkanjima (battleship island) because of its shape, the Yawata steelworks in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka Prefecture, and the Nagasaki Shipyard & Machinery Works.

However, South Korea on Tuesday criticized the selection of some of the sites, saying that Koreans were taken there as forced labor prior to and during World War II.

A resolution condemning the Japanese government’s attempt to list wartime facilities for conscripted Korean soldiers as World Heritage was passed by a parliamentary committee, the Korea Herald reported Tuesday.

“We strongly condemn Japanese attempts to list the wartime facilities as World Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. We believe it constitutes a diplomatic provocation and poses a grave concern on the peace and stability of North East Asia,” the resolution said.

The decision on whether or not to grant World Heritage status to the 23 sites will be made in Germany in July.

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37 Comments
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It's a "heritage sites" where 60,000 slave Koreans and allied POW's were forced to work until they died of overwork, disease, starvations, accidents, and beatings. I guess Japan won't be mentioning those people who contributed to Japan's "heritage" or "modernization". Wow Japan, you really can't get any lower than this. Do you really have to do this, at this time??

What's next, Auschwitz being listed as Polish heritage site?

If anyone is still wondering why Japan gets a bad rap all the time when they have "apologized", have a look at this rottenly cynical provocation.

3 ( +20 / -17 )

Gotta go with @Hotmail...this is totally undeserving of any form of international respect. But then, so is the UN.

-3 ( +12 / -15 )

What's next, Auschwitz being listed as Polish heritage site?

Auschwitz is actually already a Polish world heritage site under criteria vi. You can read the UNESCO criteria here.

http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/

15 ( +17 / -2 )

During WW2, Japanese goverment issued National Requisition Ordinance. There were 6.16 million Japanese forced to work according to the Law. Only 245 Korean were forced to work from September 1944 to March 1945 to the Law.

-1 ( +9 / -10 )

I saw some photographer's pictures of Gunkanjima and it's impressive.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

@Sunrise777

Only 245 Korean were forced to work from September 1944 to March 1945 to the Law.

Can you back up that extremely precise claim with a credible source? Why are you only looking at a 6 month window?

6 ( +8 / -2 )

A coal mine and steelworks used in the war? Even Germany turned Hitler's bunker into a car park, this sort of "gambate" should not be idolized.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

This clamouring for world heritage status is all becoming tedious - and not just Japan.

As I understand it the guiding principle is of "Outstanding Universal Value". Meaning the sites significance is so great that it (to borrow from a leaflet) transcends national borders and makes an impact on the whole world.

The current nominations in Japan include a few remaining stones of an old smelter, an old shack-like classroom an old steel framed workshop and other structures - some much more imposing. I know they have applied for a serial nomination meaning a "group of structures of related importance" being nominated, but these places are hardly of world significance. They are in fact important national heritage sites and should be preserved for posterity. I think you will find many many examples of countries emergence from essentially feudalism via the industrial revolution to modernity. 1,000s of interesting sites abound - and there protection is the responsibility of local and national govts.

But pushing the world heritage barrow, now seems to be a way to promote a "soft nationalism" while hoping to reel in a financial bonanza through tourism and associated commercial activity.

Cheapens it all.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Can you back up that extremely precise claim with a credible source? Why are you only looking at a 6 month window?

This is a credible source. A member of the House of Representatives Sanae TAKAICHI revealed the fact in the Diet by citing a article of The Asahi Shimbun newspaper. The souece of the article was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. You can understand by seeing youtube from 0.00 to 5.00 and the article, 13 July 1959. Even if you can't read Japanese, you can read the figure 245 on the article.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NsZ-9Bxp6w

http://cdn35.atwikiimg.com/kolia?cmd=upload&act=open&pageid=23&file=060308.jpg

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

M3M3M3, here's what UNESCO says about the Auschwitz's world heritage.

The site is a key place of memory for the whole of humankind for the holocaust, racist policies and barbarism; it is a place of our collective memory of this dark chapter in the history of humanity

http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/31

So is this mean Japan is turning these slave labor death sites into a memorial for the thousands of victims who perished? Of course not. I would support it to be on UNESCO, if Japan was applying out of respect for the victims. But Japan made no mention of the horrible abuses that went on in those 11 sites, and made no mention of the number of deaths and murders that went on there. Instead, Japan touts them as high point of Japanese development during the Meiji Era. Pretty sickening if you ask me.

-2 ( +6 / -8 )

they choose Kyushu sites of Aso's family owned slave labor industries Is this Aso's plan to replace Abe?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@Sunrise777

So basically the source for your claim is a rightwing diet member citing wartime government statistics backed up by an opinion piece in a newspaper from 1959? You have to admit that's not great is it?

Japanese historians agree that the number of Koreans forcibly transported to Japan to work for private companies is more than 600,000. But perhaps you will argue that the fact they were never paid was simply a private contractual dispute and they could have sued?

It's all documented in this book if you are genuinely interested in reading any of the post 1959 research on this topic.

http://www.iwanami.co.jp/.BOOKS/02/0/0238310.html

@Hotmail

I completely agree and I share your concerns. However, I think the historical account written by UNESCO is very likely to mention the forced labor. At least by being a world heritage site people can complain to the UN if there is an attempt to whitewash history rather than having their complaints fall on deaf ears.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Funny how people flock to places because of UNESCO's endorsement. Mt. Fuji was already beautiful and well-known, why did becoming a World Heritage site make people want to go?

Anyways I wanted to go to Gunkanjima for a long time and could care less who recommends it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

DaDude: "Funny how people flock to places because of UNESCO's endorsement. Mt. Fuji was already beautiful and well-known, why did becoming a World Heritage site make people want to go?"

Agree 100%. In fact, I remember saying the same thing to JAPANESE PEOPLE at least a dozen times when Mt. Fuji was given World Heritage Status. Suddenly EVERYONE thought Mt. Fuji was beautiful and something to be proud of, when in reality only SUDDENLY being proud of it was a point of shame, in my opinion. Nor did it give the people an excuse to pat themselves on the back as though Japan had helped create the mountain or something.

In any case, this is more of the same commercialism, and as a poster above put it, all of the pushing for World Heritage Status by Japan and other nations really does cheapen the meaning of it all. As for these sites in particular, if they put a monument in front of the coal mine acknowledging that many Koreans died in forced labor that helped contribute to the mine and that history should never repeat itself, then I say grant it said status. If it does not, I say do not.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

I remember saying the same thing to JAPANESE PEOPLE at least a dozen times when Mt. Fuji was given World Heritage Status. Suddenly EVERYONE thought Mt. Fuji was beautiful and something to be proud of, when in reality only SUDDENLY being proud of it was a point of shame, in my opinion.

What are you talking about? Fuji has been a symbol of Japan for centuries, and the Japanese have always been proud of it.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japan currently has 19 sites on the World Heritage list.

and it was reported (few weeks ago) that some of these sites were vandalized. Haven't heard of any arrests so far. It is important that these sites should be well protected by concerned authorities.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

People both in Japan and overseas seem to have the wrong idea about the UNESCO World Heritage Lists. (there are several lists of different types).

As far as I know, they aren't supposed to be a tourist guide to the most impressive/beautiful sites. They are supposed to be a record of important historical and cultural sites/things.

People overseas seem to get upset when too many places are added to the list, especially if they aren't considered world class or wonders of the world. As if adding a factory somehow devalues a temple. It's not supposed to be a ranking or an exclusive club. It's simply supposed to be a list. If it grows to include thousands of sites then that's ok. Many of the sites on there already (such as mines in Wales) aren't places I would ever want to visit. They're important in terms of the industrial revolution and its influence on the UK/World. But they aren't really sightseeing spots.

People in Japan seem to treat it as a tour guide. Or a status symbol. If it's on the list, then it's great and worth seeing. If it's not on the list then it's not so good. Hence the pride in getting somewhere Japanese on the list, and the sudden desire to see a site that is suddenly "better" due to its new status. People here will often tell me they are visiting a country to see the World Heritage Sites. Not to see the historical sites, just the world heritage ones. If i recommend a place then they will ask if it is a World Heritage Site. I won't know, because I don't care, because it doesn't change whether it's amazing or not. This will not impress them.

It sure seems to get a lot more news coverage here too. Most people in my home country would have no idea if we have any world heritage site, or how many, or where they are. They would also have no idea or interest in whether Mt Fuji or The Taj Mahal or The Eiffel Tower were world heritage sites or not. Because it wouldn't change anything. And it's not intended to change anything, because it's not an exclusive list or a tour guide or a recommendation.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Heritage sites are places of rememberance. At least cultural ones.

So not to forget or alter what has been.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Strangerland: "What are you talking about? Fuji has been a symbol of Japan for centuries, and the Japanese have always been proud of it."

Then why suddenly flock to it after it's become a World Heritage Site, and why pat each other on the back? Why was it a sudden topic of pride everyone talked about? I agree it's been beautiful for centuries, and a symbol, and I'm sure glad I climbed it long before it became a World Heritage Site, but you cannot deny it became an overnight source of bragging when designated. And if you do, well, it's just that: denial.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

The climb up Fuji is not that bad. Rather hike somewhere more scenic. With tall trees and vegetation. Overall Mt. Fuji itself is just kinda' overrated.

But hold on, there are beautiful lakes at the base. Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Shoujiko lakes (to name a couple) are way cool. Caught lots of fish there in the past. Camping too. "Tanukiko" lake is nice too, but that lake is further away than the others.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Only "kawai" is Heritage? Apparently all over East Asia.

Also Aushwitz is Heritage.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

These industrial sites hardly merit world heritage status. Gunkanjima is interesting as haikyo and because it looks like a very expensive set for a dystopian movie or perhaps a gulag from the Stalinist era in the former Soviet Union.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Why is it when Japan tries to get 1 thing entered into the UNESCO committee for a vote suddenly China and South Korea have issue with it?

Did you all know that China and South Korea were opposed to Mt. Fuji getting on the list? Also the Yuzu fruit which was cited by UNESCO along with Sushi as a Japanese World Cultural Heritage Food was opposed by South Korea because South Korea claimed that the Yuzu Fruit is actually a Korean Fruit they call Yuya. DNA testing proved it was 100% originally cultivated in Japan before the Heian Period.

The audacity of South Korea and China goes beyond absurd.

The Senkaku Islands should be named as a Japnese UNESCO World Heritage Site. That will put an end to the persistent incursions by Communist China AND the Spratley Islands as a Republic of the Philippines UNESCO World Heritage Site - Then the Philippines can demand that Chinese Airbase to be dismantled and removed immediately without question or recourse.

Finally, in Honor of my Fathers Generation who fought in Vietnam -and with the Vietnamese Governments support: The Khe Sanh Airbase & Battlefield in Vietnam should also be nominated and put on the UNESCO list as well.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The best places in Japan are the ones well off the beaten trail.

Gunkanjima certainly looks surrealistic impressive, but I thought visitor numbers are highly restricted.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Then why suddenly flock to it after it's become a World Heritage Site

They have been flocking to it for centuries. I'm not sure why you think this is a new phenomenon.

why pat each other on the back?

Maybe because it was made a world heritage site? I'm not sure why you would expect that they wouldn't do this when something that has been a symbol of the country for centuries is recognized as something important by the rest of the world.

Why was it a sudden topic of pride everyone talked about?

See my comment above.

you cannot deny it became an overnight source of bragging when designated. And if you do, well, it's just that: denial.

I most definitely can deny it. I don't accept your supposition as correct.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Holidays = time to visit some famous/ historical sites with the family. Article is about more sites than just Mt Fuji and don't all school kids climb it during school trips. Same for visiting Nikko, etc.

So I don't see any flocking, at least not more than happens anywhere else.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

According to Sankei news,

韓国側は、登録される見通しの23件のうち福岡県や長崎県などの計7施設に計約5万7900人の朝鮮人が送られ94人が死亡したと主張。

(translated) Korean side claimed that at 7 sites in Fukuoka and Nagasaki of the 23 sites recommended for World Heritage registration, about 57,900 Koreans were sent (for forced labor), of which 94 died.

Even if what Korea claimed is true, the mortality rate of 0.16% during war time was not that bad, I think.

HotmailMay. 06, 2015 - 07:05AM JST

It's a "heritage sites" where 60,000 slave Koreans and allied POW's were forced to work until they died of overwork, disease, starvations, accidents, and beatings.

I think you are overstating.

In addition, they were not "slaves." They were conscripted workers for public purposes during WW2 under National Mobilization Act. Both Japanese and Koreas were taken as conscripted workers by lottery.

But the point here is that Korea has a strong advertisement arm, which influences Western press. Also, I think there will be a lot of comments like Hotmail's everywhere.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

@Hotmail: Such places and their history must be remembered so that the suffering is not repeated in the future. Registering Gunkan-jima as a world heritage site will ensure that its history is recorded and made known to people (both Japanese and non-Japanese) visiting the island.

@Browny1 Though it might seem strange, the struggle for having national heritage recognized by UNESCO serves the purpose of promoting tourism. Tourism is the world-fastest growing industry and while if not managed properly it can put a lot of stress on receiving communities and their environments, once the environmental issues are addressed appropriately, it can be a great source of income for towns and villages where otherwise there would be none. Registering a place with UNESCO puts it on the map of international travelers, in other words, it makes the place known to people willing to visit historical/natural sites and leave their money there. A good point about international travel is that it also promotes understanding of history, culture and local customs so I cannot see any need to complain about this.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

CH3CHO: In addition, they were not "slaves." They were conscripted workers for public purposes during WW2 under National Mobilization Act. Both Japanese and Koreas were taken as conscripted workers by lottery.

The Japanese Government's current definition of slavery includes:

No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave trade in all their forms shall be prohibited. No one shall be held in servitude. No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour

So, even if you wish to claim that these Koreans and Japanese citizens were not slaves according to the now defunct Empire of Japan, they certainly do meet the current Japanese definition of slaves and there is nothing misleading or inappropriate about calling them slaves.

It also seems to me like you are making a distinction without any relevant difference. Are you claiming that we cannot use the word slave to describe a person who has been subjected to forced labor if their forced labor was brought about by some validly enacted law like the National Mobilization Act?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Nator: As far as I know, they aren't supposed to be a tourist guide to the most impressive/beautiful sites. They are supposed to be a record of important historical and cultural sites/things.

UNESCO’s original purpose might not have been making the sites into tourist attractions but what is a better way to promote learning other peoples’ history, traditions and culture?

People in Japan seem to treat it as a tour guide.

It seems to be the case not only in Japan though.

It sure seems to get a lot more news coverage here too. Most people in my home country would have no idea if we have any world heritage site, or how many, or where they are.

I am sorry if that is the real situation in your country. It is a pity that your people have no idea of such things.

And it's not intended to change anything, because it's not an exclusive list or a tour guide or a recommendation.

While the UNESCO’s list is not a tour guide, it is definitely a recommendation of sites considered to have an important historical/cultural value not only for their home country but also for the humanity as a whole.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I forgot to include the link to Sankei Article. http://www.sankei.com/world/news/150506/wor1505060033-n1.html

M3M3M3May. 07, 2015 - 12:59PM JST

So, even if you wish to claim that these Koreans and Japanese citizens were not slaves according to the now defunct Empire of Japan, they certainly do meet the current Japanese definition of slaves and there is nothing misleading or inappropriate about calling them slaves.

There is distinction between "forced labor" and "slavery" in international laws.

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/SlaveryConvention.aspx

Slavery Convention

Article 1

For the purpose of the present Convention, the following definitions are agreed upon:

(1) Slavery is the status or condition of a person over whom any or all of the powers attaching to the right of ownership are exercised.

Article 5

It is agreed that:

(1) Subject to the transitional provisions laid down in paragraph (2) below, compulsory or forced labour may only be exacted for public purposes.

It is OK to use forced labor for public purposes, especially during wartime. The Japanese government definition also distinguishes slavery and forced labor.

The problem is that there are people who want to rewrite history by claiming Japan made Koreans full fledged slaves, which is not true.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

C3PO:

You posted this:

Subject to the transitional provisions laid down in paragraph (2) below

But you didn't post paragraph 2. As it seems pretty relevant, I'll add it here:

In territories in which compulsory or forced labour for other than public purposes still survives, the High Contracting Parties shall endeavour progressively and as soon as possible to put an end to the practice. So long as such forced or compulsory labour exists, this labour shall invariably be of an exceptional character, shall always receive adequate remuneration, and shall not involve the removal of the labourers from their usual place of residence.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@CH3CHO

The problem is that there are people who want to rewrite history by claiming Japan made Koreans full fledged slaves, which is not true.

Fair enough, I see what your concern is but I think it's a bit more complicated. I don't think there is actually any clear definition of slavery or a 'full fledged slave' in international law. You provided the Slavery Convention definition which frames it in terms of ownership, but this is rather old and no longer the accepted definition in international law (and Japan has never actually been a party to the Slavery Convention in any case). The extract I provided above is from the more recent and more widely accepted UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (which Japan is a party to). Again, It says:

1). No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited.

2). No one shall be held in servitude.

3).(a) No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour;

http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx

As you can see, the biggest difference is that they have made a concious decision to abandon any limited definition of slavery such as treating people as property but instead just ban it 'in all it's form'. Secondly, forced labour is actually banned completely now, (no exception for forced labour for public purposes).

However,... there is a narrower allowance, not for forced labour, but for 'service' in cases of emergency or calamity. (Yes, I agree, it's a semantic difference but very important because we can no longer say that there are any exceptions for forced labour, just an allowance to demand 'service')

(c) For the purpose of this paragraph the term "forced or compulsory labour" shall not include:

(iii) Any service exacted in cases of emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;

So if an international court decides that what you claim was 'service' was actually closer to forced labour, then whether it was a national emergency, calamity or public purpose would be irrelevant. I would say that what Korean and Japanese labourers went through was definetly closer to forced labour than any sort of acceptable 'service' that a country might reasonably be able to ask of its citizens... And I would say forced labour is one of the many forms of slavery, even if it's just temporary.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

StrangerlandMay. 07, 2015 - 02:22PM JST

I hope you read the paragraph 2 more carefully. It is a transitional provision about "compulsory or forced labour for other than public purposes." It does not say anything about, or restrict in any way, compulsory or forced labour for public purposes.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@CH3CHO, I'll just add a bit more here so that you can reply again if you would like.

I will check to see if there is any literature on what might distinguish 'service' from 'forced labour'. I imagine 'service' might be interpreted as being limited to activities that someone might reasonably do during a non-emergency situation. So for example, training someone to work in a coal mine during a war might reasonably be regarded as 'service' but forcing someone down into an extremely dangerous mine without any safety equipment or training etc might be regarded as 'forced labour'.

@Strangerland

That seems like a bit of a tricky section. As CH3CHO say, it seems to be targeted at everything other than public purposes. My guess is that it might be aimed at those countries where orphans are taken as slaves. The children are fed and clothed but they are basically expected to be domestic workers (for private purposes) until they become adults.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

M3M3M3May. 07, 2015 - 03:46PM JST

Thank you. I would like to point out that using 1966 definition to judge acts during WW2(1939-1945) is rather unfair.

"The Battleship Island" had a long history of mining operation and a lot of Japanese employees worked there, before during and after WW2. The mine accepted conscripted laborers during the war due to man power shortages and enhanced demands for military use. But I do not see any reason that they had operated without safety equipment or training during the war.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Jane - thank you for your comments. I agree with all of what you say about the positive benefits.

I wasn't complaining, but rather commenting on and pointing out that often the "clamouring" for world heritage status imo, appears to be overly based on the finacial rewards to be reapt. As you stated money & publicity will draw attention to the sites, furthering more recognition - but sometimes that recognition goes against the grain of preservation.

Try accessing the wonder of Shirakawago. I've been twice - once thankfully on a beautiful winters snowy Thursday and it was amazing with no crowds. A later date I went on a weekend and it was shoulder to shoulder with those bussed in in their 1,000's. Certainly lost a bit of charm (or more).

Or the wonderful wilderness that is Shiretoko in Hokkaido. I recall after it was granted status the numbers of tourists increased dramatically - so much so that one of the areas leaders (mayor?) recommended culling some of the bears as they were a danger to the hordes. Er - the park is a world recognized wilderness conservation zone - how about culling some of the tourists I and others thought.

And the other point I mentioned which is critical - is, are all of these places really, truly of world significance? Somehow I have my doubts. Perhaps a tiered system with "stars" (michelin ha, ha!) might be more effective in establishing universal worthiness.

It all reminds me a little of how so many people think the Nobel prize is a competition that one trains and aims for - like an olympic medal. How wrong! And perhaps many of those same people think world heritage status is a competition to win.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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