National Commissions for UNESCO
Permanent Delegations to UNESCO
To Whom It May Concern:
We, the International Research Institute of Controversial Histories (iRICH), are a Non-Governmental Organization with the principal aim of recognizing true history by tackling historical controversies of international significance based on fair historical research.
On January 28, 2022, the Japanese Government informed the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that Japan recommends its “Sado Gold Mine” to be inscribed as World Cultural Heritage. “Sado Gold Mine” is a historical site located in Sadogashima Island in the northern part of Japan and is composed of several gold mines. Sado Gold Mine has a long history and during Japan’s Edo period (from1603 to 1868), the entire process of gold mining and refinery was carried out by traditional manual manufacturing. In the 17th century, the Mine produced over 400 kilograms of gold per year and its production was at a top level in the world. Today, this historical site has preserved the memory of the superb technical level achieved at the time. As such, the Japanese Government recommended this site as worthy of the status of a World Heritage Site.
However, the South Korean Government claimed that Sado Gold Mine was the very place where Koreans were forced to engage in labor during World War II and that therefore it is strongly opposed to Japan’s recommendation of the site, demanding that Japan withdraw the recommendation.
Whether Sado Gold Mine would be inscribed as World Heritage site or not is to be decided finally in June or July 2023 by the World Heritage Committee after the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) fully examines the recommendation for a year. During this period, we anticipate the South Korean Government’s feverish lobbying to prevent Sado Gold Mine from being inscribed.
However, the South Korean Government’s assertion against the prospective inscription is totally untrue. Here, we will point out how absurd and fact-twisting the Korean assertion is.
The focus of Japan’s recommendation is the Edo period.
Japan’s recommendation deals strictly with the Edo period. It highly evaluates the gold production system of manual manufacturing established during the Edo period, which has been rarely seen in the world. This has nothing to do with Korea and Korea is not a party involved in the issue. Therefore, South Korea is not in the position to oppose the inscription in question.
Moreover, the Korean assertion that “there was forced labor in the gold mines, which disqualifies the site for World Heritage Site” is wrong in the first place. If the Korean assertion were right, Athene’s “Parthenon” or Rome’s Colosseum would surely be disqualified because both of them were built by slaves.
There was no forced abduction.
It is true that there were Korean workers in Sado Gold Mine during World War II. However, those Korean workers were not forcibly brought there as the South Korean Government claims. Most of the Korean workers in Sado Gold Mine went to work there of their own volition, looking for high wages. At that time, in order to come to mainland Japan from the Korean Peninsula, various permits were needed. Those who failed to obtain the necessary permits often entered mainland Japan illegally, seeking work for high wages. From 1939 to 1942, 19, 200 illegal immigrants were caught and then were forcibly sent back to the Korean Peninsula. If there had been a need to forcibly bring Korean workers, those illegal immigrants caught upon entry would have never been sent back to Korea.
“Mobilization” of Koreans, who were Japanese nationals at the time, was legal.
There were some Korean workers brought from the Korean Peninsula to mainland Japan through “mobilization.” At that time, Japan and Korea were one country and Koreans were Japanese citizens. Therefore, it was legal to mobilize Koreans who were Japanese nationals. The ILO Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No.29) [Japan ratified the Convention before the War] Article 2-2-c) states: “The term forced or compulsory labour shall not include any work or service exacted in case of emergency, that is to say, in the event of war....” Thus, the mobilization of Korean people was authorized by the international law. In April 2021, the Japanese Government decided at a cabinet meeting that the wartime mobilization of Korean workers does not constitute forced labor as stated in the Forced Labour Convention. Prime Minister Kishida Fumio has confirmed it.
There was no slave labor.
There was no wage system based on ethnic differences applied at Sado Gold Mine. As for payment and treatment, there was no difference between Japanese and Korean workers. A reliable primary source “the Japan Mining Industry’s “Survey Report on Korean Laborers”, December 1940” reveals that with wages being paid according to results, many Korean workers earned more money than the Japanese workers did. South Korea’s assertion that Korean workers were abducted and engaged in forced labor is merely a lie South Korea made up to denigrate Japan.
As pointed out above, South Korea’s assertion distorts historical facts and is totally groundless. South Korea’s aim is to degrade Japan’s past by rewriting history and to hold a diplomatic superiority over Japan. To accomplish this goal, South Korea is deploying “intelligence warfare,” using the United Nations. If various United Nations organizations involved in the World Heritage Inscription were to make a wrong judgment regarding the case of Sado Gold mine, confused by the unilateral lobbying activities conducted by South Korea, not only would be Japan’s national honor deeply harmed, but also the United Nations’ credibility would be enormously damaged.
Hereby, we, as Japanese nationals, ardently ask those who are involved in the case of inscription of the World Heritage Sites to duly evaluate the historical value of Sado Gold Mine in a just and impartial manner and inscribe Sado Gold Mine as World Cultural Heritage, and not be influenced by the South Korea’s political propaganda.