South Korea has told Japan it opposes the latter's move to have old industrial facilities where Koreans were pressed into slave labor during World War II entered on UNESCO's list of World Heritage cultural sites, a source well-versed in bilateral relations said Tuesday.
The source's remarks came after Japan's top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga earlier in the day said the Japanese government will seek to have the so-called "Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution" entered on UNESCO's list in 2015.
The more than 20 facilities, mostly located in Kyushu and neighboring Yamaguchi Prefecture in Honshu, include the Yawata Steel Works in Fukuoka and a shipyard in Nagasaki where scores of Koreans were forced to labor without pay during the 35-year period of Japanese colonial rule of Korea, which ended in 1945.
They also include Hashima Islet, where hundreds of Korean draftees were forced to work in an undersea coal mine, and many of them lost their lives in the process.
According to Japan, the historical sites represent its spectacular industrial modernization from the late 19th to early 20th centuries and the history of its rise to become a major manufacturing power.
The Chosun Ilbo, a major South Korean daily, condemned the plan, saying Japan's plan to list the "slave labor sites" with UNESCO shows its determination "to whitewash its wartime atrocities by direct and indirect means."