Edward Markey

From the office of:

Edward Markey

From: The Honorable Michael M. Honda
Sent By:
Date: 6/30/2015

Urge UNESCO and Japan to acknowledge WWII POW slave laborers at its Kyushu-Yamaguchi sites

Deadline COB Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Current co-signers: Rangel, Tanako and McGovern

Dear Colleague:
Japan has nominated the Kyushu-Yamaguchi industrial sites for the UNESCO World Heritage List. The sites are historically significant to Japan’s Meiji-era industrial revolution, but Imperial Japan also used prisoners of war (POW) as slave labor to run those mines and factories during the Second World War. I ask you to join me in urging UNESCO and Japan to acknowledge the victims of its wartime activities in its application.
As with many of its other World War Two-era atrocities, the Japanese government seeks to whitewash history by ignoring the past. Japan’s application to UNESCO doesn’t mention the POWs who were used as slave laborers.
These POWs—who were cruelly exploited as slaves—come from all over the world. Though the vast majority of the victims were Asian, the POWs included Americans, British, Dutch, Australians, Canadians, and Indian prisoners.
I am not objecting to Japan highlighting its history. Japan is a great nation and it has much to be proud of, but it cannot be allowed to forget the crimes of its wartime past.
If you have any questions or would like to sign-on to the letter, please contact Dave Majumdar in Congressman Honda’s office at Dave or x6-9707. The deadline to sign on is COB Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

Mike Honda
Member of Congress


June XX, 2015

Mr. Kishore Rao
World Heritage Centre
7, place de fontenoy
75352 Paris
France c/o Ms. Nathalie Valanchon,

Dear Mr. Rao:
We urge that UNESCO work with the Government of Japan to amend its application to nominate the “Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution: Kyushu-Yamaguchi and Related Areas” for the UNESCO World Heritage List.
We do not object to Japan highlighting its modern history, but we are very concerned that the nomination is missing the history of Allied POWs in Imperial Japan captivity during the Second World War. The story of these sites is incomplete without an official recognition of Imperial Japan’s use of POW slave labor. Japan’s nomination features eight industrial “areas.” Five of these held 22 POW camps to provide slave labor to Japan’s industrial giants, such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Aso Group, Ube Industries, Tokai Carbon, Nippon Coke & engineering, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, Furukawa Company Group and Denka.
The Japanese World Heritage nomination focuses only on the history of these mining and steel industries, but completely omits the history of the POWs. Japan’s nomination does not mention the estimated 12,000 POW slave laborers who worked at or near the nominated sites. The POWs included 3,590 Dutch, 3357 British, 2,548 Americans, 1,392 Australians, 201 Canadians, 132 Indians, five New Zealanders, five Norwegians, two Czechs, one South African, and three others of unknown nationality. POWs from India, Malaysia, Jamaica, Finland, Poland, and Portugal–all of which sit on the UNESCO World Heritage committee–were held captive on mainland Japan.
The lack of any reference to the Allied POW slave labor portion of the history of these sites would appear to contradict not only UNESCO’s mandate of ensuring that World Heritage sites have “Outstanding Universal Value” but also the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.”
We welcome the efforts of our Japanese friends to share their history with the world, but even a close alliance cannot negate historical facts. Imperial Japan’s use of Allied POW slave labor in its corporate metal and mineral mines is an essential feature of the history of the nominated sites’ industrial heritage.
We therefore urge UNESCO to work with the Government of Japan to amend its application to tell the full history of Japan’s industrialization by including its history of POW slave labor. This would not only address the concerns of our constituents, but would also assure that the nomination in question conveys the totality of the story, helping it transcend national boundaries, and highlighting its universal importance.
Thank you for your prompt attention to the concerns of our brave veterans and their elected representatives. We look forward to the World Heritage Centre’s response.


Michael M. Honda