His Excellency Yoshihide Suga,
Prime Minister of Japan.
The Hague, 14 September 2021
Subject: The World Heritage Committee’s displeasure of not implementing to include World War II in the full history of the interpretive strategy of the sites on the World Heritage List of the Meiji Industrial Revolution
We discussed with the Ambassador in The Hague our previous petition concerning the World Heritage Committee (WHC) displeasure of not fulfilling in the interpretive strategy the full history of each site on the World Heritage List of Meiji Industrial Revolution. He questioned the status of workers at sites during World War II. He mentioned that the workers at the Hashima Coal Mine were not POW’s. He seemed to refer to the local oral statements that there were no instances of people forced to work at the coal mine. It confirms the observation by UNESCO that conscripted workers from other countries were considered to be Japanese nationals at the time and were treated as such. No wonder that the UNESCO mission concluded that remembering the victims is inadequate and that the interpretive measures to allow an understanding of those who during World War II were brought against their will and forced to work are currently INSUFFICIENT.
In a letter dated 31 August 2021 from Ms Mechtild Rossler, director of the UNESCO, to the president of the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts she refers to Decision 42 COM 7B.10 that the World Heritage Committee “strongly encourages the State Party(Japan) to take into account best international practices for interpretation strategies when continuing its work on the interpretation of the full history od the property, both during and outside the Outstanding Universal Value period and in the digital interpretation materials”. The letter also refers back to “Especially, in developing the “interpretive strategy” Japan will sincerely respond to the recommendation that the strategy allows “an understanding of the full history of each site”. In the attachments it was made clear that Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat has overall responsibility for implementation of the framework for the conservation and management of the property! More specifically Japan is prepared to take measures that allow an understanding that there were a large number of Koreans who were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions in the 1940s at some of the sites, and during World War II, the Government of Japan also implemented its policy of requisition. In this context was the suggestion by the Ambassador outrageous. I personally asked him to reconsider his suggestion.
I repeat my request that you personally to act, before you hand over your position, in the matter of the full interpretive strategy to remember the victims. Japan must not forget its misconduct during World War II and has to respect the history of each site listed on the World Heritage List. Do not wait till the World Heritage Committee reconsiders in 2023 the efforts Japan made to comply its pledge made in 2015. The displeasure of the WHC in strongly regretting that Japan has not fully implemented its recommendations is an insult to the victims and their next of kin.
On behalf of the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts.
J.F. van Wagtendonk
NB “The story of Johan” a Japanese translation of the history of a POW in Fukuoka-2 in a lesson booklet.