Photo/IllutrationVisitors to the island known as Gunkanjima (battleship island) off the city of Nagasaki in August 2016. It was home to the Hashima Coal Mine, one of 23 historical facilities recognized as a single World Heritage site in 2015. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

SEOUL--South Korea is taking issue with Japan over a report on follow-up measures for a World Heritage site that has associations with conscripted wartime laborers.

Seoul complained that Japan failed to present the stories of workers from the Korean Peninsula in its state of conservation report on Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Iron and Steel, Shipbuilding and Coal Mining that spans eight prefectures, which was recognized by UNESCO in 2015.

Seoul argues that countless Koreans labored in facilities included in the Word Heritage site. It had demanded that Japan present the full history of that time from the perspective of both countries.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry on Dec. 3 released a commentary in which it expressed “regret” over Japan’s report and unwillingness to engage in dialogue over the issue.

Japan’s latest state of conservation report on the site, submitted to UNESCO by Dec. 1, pledged to open an industrial heritage information center for the heavy industry facilities in question in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward during the current fiscal year that ends in March.

The center is expected to provide descriptions of the site, including explanations about Korean laborers.

Seoul voiced disappointment that the center will be located in Tokyo, rather than nearer to the listed facilities. It also complained about a lack of follow-up measures in Japan's latest report on the issue of conscripted laborers.

In the progress report submitted to UNESCO in 2017, Japan mentioned the country’s wartime policy of requisition and said there were a large number of people from the Korean Peninsula who “supported” Japanese industry over the period before and after World War II.

The latest progress report did not refer to Korean workers. However, the Japanese government insists its position on the description of the conscripted workers remains unchanged.

In the commentary, Seoul called on Japan to implement the “follow-up measures promised by the Japanese side” previously and engage in dialogue with South Korea on this issue.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry noted that when the addition of such facilities to the World Heritage list was approved in 2015, Japan expressed its willingness to “incorporate appropriate measures into the interpretive strategy to remember the victims.”

During the World Heritage Committee session that year, a Japanese representative stated that “there were a large number of Koreans and others who were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions in the 1940s at some of the sites.”

Tokyo also divulged plans during the session to establish an information center concerning those industrial facilities.

In response to Seoul’s criticism, an official with close ties to the Japanese government said the mention of “supported” reflected Japan's understanding that Korean workers underpinned Japanese industry by providing a labor force.

The official also defended the decision to establish the information center in Tokyo because the facilities in the sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution are scattered across eight prefectures. In this context, the officials called the decision appropriate.

“It can serve as home to disseminate information from those facilities in various parts of Japan,” the official added.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi defended the State of Conservation report at a news conference on Dec. 3.

“In the report, we were not asked to brief on the issue of laborers from the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

(This article was compiled from reports by Ryo Aibara in Tokyo and Hajimu Takeda in Seoul.)