Updated: Apr 2
'The Sado Mines' are gold and silver mines located on Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture, Japan and had been the largest gold mines in Japan for about 400 years from their discovery in 1596 until the closing in 1989. In particular, while emphasizing its history of having served as the largest gold mines based on traditional hand tools in the Edo period between 1603 and 1868, Japan limited the UNESCO World Heritage nomination to the Edo period only.
However, during World War II, the Sado Mines were the sites which mainly produced copper and iron to support the Imperial Japan's war of aggression and to that end, thousands of Koreans were forced to work and subjected to war-time human rights violation. In order not to mention this part of history, Japan deliberately limited the World Heritage designation to the Edo period only.
For Japan, the Sado Mines are sites which showcase the historical advancement. However, they should not turn a blind eye to the sufferings of those Koreans who were brought against their will and toiled until they died under the harsh conditions of the mines. I am not arguing that Japan's Sado Mines are not worth being listed as World Heritage. The outstanding universal value of the Sado Mines will only become meaningful when they share not only the bright side, but also the dark side of its history.
The issue of Korean forced laborers is not a historical controversy that can be debated between Korean and Japan just as some Japanese rightest groups claim. This is a question about how the world should remember the forced labor of Koreans, the issue of wartime human rights violations substantiated by clear evidence. We already know the answer. In Germany's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Völklingen Ironworks, Mines of Rammelsberg, and Zollverein Coal Mine, we can see Germany's mature attitudes and remorse with respect to the issue of forced labor during World War II.