South Korea govt expresses regret over Japanese push to preserve mine heritage

South Korea has expressed "deep regret" for Japan's attempt to suggest a former gold mine connected to forced labour during WWII as a candidate for Unesco World Heritage status, and has demanded that the proposal be withdrawn.

After Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced plans to nominate the controversial mine on Sado Island for the Unesco heritage list in 2023, Seoul's Second Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-moon summoned Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Koichi Aiboshi to lodge a protest, according to media reports.

A Cabinet meeting scheduled for February 1, the application deadline, is anticipated to ratify the decision.  "Despite our repeated warnings, the Japanese government has decided to push for the Sado mine, where Koreans were forced to work during World War II," Ministry spokesperson Choi Young-sam said in a statement.

According to his office, Vice Minister Choi sent the protest letter to Aiboshi, demanding for Japan to immediately halt its pursuit of the historic designation while "ignoring the terrible history." The Sado mine began as a gold mine in the 17th century, but during World War II, it was converted into a facility that produced war-related materials such as cooper, iron, and zinc. 

In 1989, it was shut down completely. 2,000 Koreans were reportedly compelled to work in the mine, according to historical archives. If the proposal is approved, a Unesco advisory group will investigate the mine site in the fall and determine whether to add it to the list in May of the following year. That summer, the World Heritage Committee will present its findings.

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