Japan resubmitted a gold and silver mine complex on Sado Island for the UNESCO World Heritage list after amending flaws indicated by the organization from a previous application made last year, the Japanese culture minister said Friday, against the wishes of South Korea.

The mine complex in Niigata Prefecture was one of the world's largest producers of gold in the 17th century, but has been a cause of tension with South Korea as it claims the site is linked to wartime forced labor of Koreans. The announcement was met with protests from the South Korean government.

File photo taken in May 2022 shows "Doyu no Warito" of the Aikawa Tsurushi Gold and Silver Mine remains in Sado, Niigata Prefecture. (Kyodo)

"(The mines) have cultural worth, as they demonstrate the use of industrial technology and production systems through the creation of traditional handicrafts until the Edo period (1603-1868)," Keiko Nagaoka, the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology, said during a press conference.

Regarding South Korea's opposition, she said, "We will give a thorough explanation to the international community, so that its value is appreciated." The application, aimed at the site being included in the 2024 list at the earliest, was submitted on Thursday.

Niigata Gov. Hideyo Hanazumi said, "We will work hard so the Sado mines become registered and highly regarded as a World Heritage site."

Although the government recommended the mine complex in February last year for UNESCO World Heritage status, the U.N. agency did not consider its inclusion due to a lack of explanations regarding the Nishimikawa Placer Gold Mine.

South Korea has been urging Japan not to pursue the listing because of what Seoul views as the forced labor of Koreans on the island during Japan's 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

Its Second Vice Foreign Minister, Lee Do Hoon, called in Daisuke Namioka, the minister of economic affairs at the Japanese Embassy, to lodge a protest with Tokyo, while the ministry spokesperson expressed opposition to the bid in a statement.

"The Korean government will continue to make efforts together with the international community, including UNESCO, so that the full history, which contains the painful history of people who were forced to work during wartime, can be reflected," the spokesperson said.

If the Japanese government's initiative goes as planned, UNESCO's advisory body will survey the site to determine whether it is worthy of being added to the list. The World Heritage Committee makes a formal decision around summer each year.

Related coverage:

UNESCO not reviewing Japan's Sado mine for 2023 World Heritage list