Japan’s push for UNESCO to list divisive gold mine delayed

Jul 27, 2022, 11:41 PM | Updated: Jul 28, 2022, 3:48 am

Shinsuke Suematsu, the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, spe...

Shinsuke Suematsu, the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, speaks to reporters at the prime minister's office in Tokyo, Thursday, July 28, 2022. Japan’s push to register a controversial former gold mine on Sado Island for a UNESCO World Heritage list is now being delayed because of insufficiency in the application, officials said. (Kyodo News via AP)

(Kyodo News via AP)

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s push to obtain UNESCO World Heritage recognition for a former gold mine key to the nation’s industrialization will be delayed because its application was insufficient, officials said Thursday.

The efforts to obtain a UNESCO listing for the Sado Island mine were protested by South Korea and have added to their diplomatic frictions over Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula and its actions in World War II.

The mine in northern Japan operated for nearly 400 years and was once the world’s largest gold producer before closing in 1989.

South Korea opposed the registration as inappropriate because of Japan’s wartime abuse of Korean laborers. Seoul has said Koreans brought to Japan during its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula were put to forced labor at the mine.

Historians say Japan used hundreds of thousands of Korean laborers, including those forcibly brought from the Korean Peninsula, at mines and factories to make up for labor shortages, as most working-age men were sent to battlefronts across Asia and the Pacific.

The town and Niigata prefectural sites praise the Sado Island mine for mining technology development before and after industrialization. There is no mention of its wartime use of Korean laborers.

Japan submitted a letter of recommendation to nominate the mine to UNESCO earlier this year and hoped it would be listed next year. On Thursday, however, culture minister Shinsuke Suematsu told reporters registration next year “would be difficult.”

Suematsu said the UNESCO office cited “insufficiency” in the content of the application but he was not more specific. “It is extremely regrettable, but we have decided to resubmit the documents,” he said. An interim document will be submitted by the end of September and a formal version by Feb. 1.

The Agency for Cultural Affairs later said the additional information requested by UNESCO involved sections of a former waterway used to collect gold dust. While Japan provided an explanation for the waterway sections as a set, UNESCO wanted fuller descriptions for each of them separately. The agency said the issue is mostly technical and not related to interpretation of wartime history.

Another Japanese site with similar sensitivities was granted UNESCO recognition in 2015. Gunkanjima, or Battleship Island, in Nagasaki prefecture, was a former coal mine site recognized as important to the Meiji Industrial Revolution in Japan. South Korea protested that the site omitted mention of Koreans toiling on the island, which triggered a UNESCO decision urging Japan to present more balanced history.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government previously considered delaying the Sado Island nomination but apparently reversed itself after facing growing pressure from ultra-conservatives in the ruling party known for their efforts to whitewash Japan’s wartime past.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul are at their lowest level in years due to disputes stemming from Japan’s sexual abuse of Korean women and use of forced laborers before and during World War II.


Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch ro...

Associated Press

Plane that did ‘Dutch roll’ on flight from Phoenix suffered structural damage, investigators say

A Boeing 737 Max suffered damage to parts of the plane's structure after it went into a “Dutch roll” during a flight from Phoenix last month.

9 hours ago

This photo provided by Randy Shannon shows Mooney Falls on the Havasupai reservation outside the vi...

Associated Press

Dozens report illness after trips to waterfalls near Grand Canyon

Dozens of hikers say they fell ill during trips to a popular Arizona tourist destination that features towering blue-green waterfalls deep in a gorge neighboring Grand Canyon National Park.

1 day ago

Mugshot of Rudy Giuliani, who was processed Monday, June 10, 2024, in the Arizona fake electors cas...

Associated Press

Rudy Giuliani posts $10K cash bond after being processed in Arizona fake electors case

Rudy Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and Donald Trump attorney, was processed Monday in the Arizona fake electors case.

4 days ago

FILE - White House former chief of staff Mark Meadows speaks with reporters at the White House, Wed...

Associated Press

Former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows pleads not guilty in Arizona fake elector case

Former Donald Trump presidential chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump 2020 Election Day operations director Michael Roman pleaded not guilty Friday in Phoenix to nine felony charges for their roles in an effort to overturn Trump's Arizona election loss to Joe Biden.

7 days ago

deadly heat wave last summer...

Associated Press

After a deadly heat wave last summer, metro Phoenix is changing tactics

Fresh memories of the deadly heat wave last summer have led Arizona authorities to launch new tactics ahead of summer 2024.

18 days ago

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near...

Associated Press

Man accused of starting wildfire in national wildlife preserve in Yuma

A Yuma man has been arrested for allegedly starting a wildfire in a national wildlife preserve near the California border.

19 days ago

Sponsored Articles


Sanderson Ford

3 new rides for 3 new road trips in Arizona

It's time for the Sanderson Ford Memorial Day sale with the Mighty Fine 69 Anniversary, as Sanderson Ford turned 69 years old in May.


Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines can get you smoothly from Phoenix to Frankfurt on new A330-900neo airplane

Adventure Awaits! And there's no better way to experience the vacation of your dreams than traveling with Condor Airlines.



Desert Institute for Spine Care is the place for weekend warriors to fix their back pain

Spring has sprung and nothing is better than March in Arizona. The temperatures are perfect and with the beautiful weather, Arizona has become a hotbed for hikers, runners, golfers, pickleball players and all types of weekend warriors.

Japan’s push for UNESCO to list divisive gold mine delayed