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Jihon Kim – Heritage Wars: Legacies of Colonial Rule and Wartime Memories in East Asia for UNESCO Nominations

December 6, 2023 @ 12:00 pm 1:30 pm

Speaker: Jihon Kim, Fulbright Visiting Scholar, Harvard Asia Center; Chief of International Cooperation, Korean National Commission for UNESCO; Research Fellow, Institute of International Studies, Seoul National University

Chair: Andrew Gordon, Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Professor of History, Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Department of History, Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Since 2015, conflicts at UNESCO over the historic interpretation of Japanese colonial rule and wartime actions in the first half of the 20th Century among three East Asian countries, Japan, Korea, and China, have been fierce. Japan nominated the Meiji Industrial Heritage Sites for the World Heritage List in 2015. This brought a huge backlash from Korea and several other countries as some of the sites had used forced labor from Korea and China during WWII. In the meantime, China successfully inscribed the Documents of Nanjing Massacre to the Memory of the World Register in 2015, despite the strong complaint from Japan. However, nomination on the archives of Comfort Women was postponed for further communication between Korea and Japan in 2017, which is still pending. 

This talk explains how these recent heritage wars at UNESCO result from dissonant or competing ideas of the colonial and wartime past in East Asia. Based on my personal experience, my focus will be on bilateral and multilateral diplomacy by both State and non-State actors. This talk tries to answer the question of how we might deal with legacies of colonial rule and wartime memories in East Asia in a more inclusive way and invites ideas from the participants.  


December 6, 2023
12:00 pm – 1:30 pm


Harvard University Asia Center


CGIS South Room S354

1730 Cambridge St
Cambridge, MA 02138 United States

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