Can Hashima Island be UNESCO heritage site?
"I virtually lived a prison life on Hashima. I feel horrendous and heavy whenever I recall the time when I worked at the bottom of coal mines while only wearing my underwear," said Choi, who was forcibly taken to Japan at the age of 15 in 1943.
Hashima is an island 18 kilometers from the southern Japanese port city of Nagasaki.
During World War II, the Mitsubishi Group, which was Japan's largest munitions company, extracted coal from Hashima island by making use of forced Korean labourers. They gathered young boys from all around Korea and forced them to work in the 40°C coal mine. They had to spend more than 12 hours a day with a pair of underwear in the coal mine which is 1000m under the sea, and what they get to eat during the hard work was a hunk of beancurd. Most of the labourers were under 18.
According to official data, 58,000 Koreans forcibly worked at 23 coal mines, steel mills and shipyards in Japan. Of them, some 800 Koreans were taken to the island between 1939-1945, with 134 of them dying while working there.
Despite the island's dark history, Hashima island is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015 as a symbol of its industrialisation. South Korea opposed the move, asserting it's a shameful site notorious for forced labor. However the island was finally included on the Heritage List in July 2015 through a compromise between South Korea and Japan at a World Heritage Committee (WHC) meeting in Germany, in which a Japanese government representative acknowledged that a large number of Koreans and others were brought against their will and "forced to work under harsh conditions" in the 1940s at some of the sites, including Hashima Island.
Japan also promised to set up a sign stating the fact that forced labor occurred on the island before December 2017. But the Japanese government changed its stance right after the listing, saying, "The remark of 'forced to work under harsh conditions' by the Japanese representative did not mean 'forced labor.'"
Japanese government still repudiate the forced labour in the island and it has become a major tourist attraction since it became a heritage site. I felt that Japanese government is lying to the whole word and UNESCO heritage site should not be the place which committed slavery. So I wanted to tell this to the world the way I can do.
I thought the saddest part of this is they only got to have a hunk of beancurd while 12hours shift. It sounds so terrible to the boys who were even younger than me. So I think this can represent the pain of the forced labour. So I made the poster with this drawing and put it on my instagram. I hope a lots of people know this story so Hashima island cannot be UNESCO heritage site anymore.