BONN - The UNESCO World Heritage Committee voted unanimously to add Japan's Meiji-era (1868-1912) industrial revolution sites to its World Cultural Heritage list in a meeting in Bonn on Sunday.
Decided by 21 member countries, including South Korea, the 23 sites across eight prefectures will officially be registered around Wednesday.
The committee was scheduled to discuss Japan's bid on Saturday, but deliberations were postponed until Sunday because of a row between Japan and South Korea over remarks to be made at the meeting. The two countries were able to reach an agreement shortly before Sunday's meeting began.
"Japan is prepared to take measures that will allow for the understanding that there were a large number of Koreans and others who were brought against their will and forced to work under harsh conditions in the 1940s at some of the sites," the Japanese delegation read out a statement after the registration was decided, based on its agreement with South Korea.
"Japan is prepared to incorporate appropriate measures into the interpretive strategy to remember the victims such as the establishment of an information centre," the delegation also said.
The statement is apparently a concession by Japan to South Korea. The South Korean delegation said it believes Japan will sincerely implement the measures.
South Korea opposed the registration of seven of the 23 sites in May, claiming that Koreans were under "forced labour" there. Though Tokyo and Seoul agreed at a foreign ministerial meeting in June to co-operate for their respective UNESCO bids, South Korea demanded at a committee meeting that Japan issue a statement or written resolution to clarify the fact that there was "forced labour" of people hailing from the Korean Peninsula at some of the facilities.
Negotiations over the issue hit a snag after Japan responded that "forced labour" was an unacceptable term.
The Meiji-era sites trace the development of Japan's heavy industries that integrate Western technology with traditional culture. The sites include reverberating furnaces developed in what were then Satsuma, Choshu and other domains before the Meiji era in the closing days of the Tokugawa shogunate, in addition to the state-run Yawata Steel Works, Miike Coal Mine and Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard.
Other assets include Hashima Coal Mine commonly known as Gunkanjima as well as the giant cantilever crane at Mitsubishi Nagasaki Shipyard, which is still in operation.
The historic settings are the 15th cultural site to be awarded World Cultural Heritage status, bringing Japan's total World Cultural or Natural Heritage sites to 19.