A bid for a UNESCO World Heritage designation is the latest flash point between Japan and South Korea over Japanese colonial abuses during World War II.
SADO ISLAND, Japan — About 40 miles off the northwestern coast of Japan, Akiyoshi Iwasaki is eager to share some history of the mountainous, lightning-bolt-shaped isle where he grew up.
After years of lobbying by local residents, Mr. Iwasaki, a bar owner, is delighted that the Japanese government has nominated three gold and silver mines on Sado Island for UNESCO World Heritage designation, hoping to showcase them alongside Mount Fuji, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Kyoto’s shrines.
The mines supplied precious metals to the shoguns who ruled Japan during the two and a half centuries when the country was all but cut off from the rest of the world. Yet there is a darker part of Sado’s history that Mr. Iwasaki, 50, knows little about: the period during World War II when about 1,500 Koreans were conscripted to work in the mines as subjects of Japan’s colonial rule.
“People in my generation don’t know about those workers in the mines,” Mr. Iwasaki said. In Japan, such history is often viewed as best forgotten, or at least consigned to a settled past. But in South Korea, the wounds of Japan’s 35-year occupation remain raw, and that has made Sado the latest flash point between these two Asian neighbors that seem irrevocably divided.
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