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Japan's Meiji industrial sites win UN world heritage status

Update: July, 06/2015 - 11:15

BERLIN — The UN's cultural body on Sunday conferred world heritage status on a number of new sites including some seen as representative of Japan's industrial revolution, as South Korea lifted its opposition to the listing.

UNESCO's World Heritage committee added 23 sites considered representative of Japan's industrial revolution under Emperor Meiji (1868-1910) to its vaunted list, at a meeting taking place in the western German city of Bonn until July 8.

Tokyo's bid to have the sites listed – including a steelworks, a shipbuilding yard and a coal mine – had touched off a diplomatic spat because South Korea and China say that seven of them became centres for deportation and forced labour during their respective Japanese occupations.

But the Japanese delegation said it was prepared to acknowledge that and "incorporate measures... to remember the victims such as the establishment of (an) information centre." Given the assurance, Seoul said it would not block the Japanese bid.

Alamo battle site

Elsewhere, the United States succeeded in its bid to have the 18th century Spanish-built San Antonio Missions in Texas added to the world heritage list.

The five Spanish Roman Catholic sites built in and around what is now the city of San Antonio – including the Alamo fort, where in 1836 some 180 Texans fighting for independence from Mexico died in battle against Mexican General Santa Anna's army of several thousand soldiers.

The site comprises architectural and archaeological structures, farmland, residencies, churches and granaries, as well as water distribution systems, UNESCO said.

The complexes "illustrate the Spanish Crown's efforts to colonize, evangelize and defend the northern frontier of New Spain," the cultural body added.

It said the San Antonio Missions were also an example of the interweaving of Spanish and Coahuiltecan cultures, including the decorative elements of churches, which combined Catholic symbols with indigenous designs inspired by nature.

Inclusion on UNESCO's World Heritage list can bring economic benefits, because as well as being a powerful tourist draw, world heritage sites are eligible for financial assistance towards preservation.

In Germany, Hamburg's historic maritime warehouse and business districts were similarly awarded world heritage status.

The "Speicherstadt", the world's largest historic warehouse complex, is a district of connecting roads, canals and bridges dating from 1885 to 1927, lined with red-brick office buildings.

Covering 26 ha in the heart of the northern German city's bustling port area, its Gothic warehouses once stored high-value goods, such as coffee, spices and tobacco, UNESCO said.

The Speicherstadt has more recently become a centre for tourism in Germany's second biggest city, as well as a draw for innovative businesses and eateries.

Opposite stands the "Kontorhaus" office district in Hamburg's old town, built in the 1920s and 1930s, which UNESCO also listed.

It includes the "Chilehaus" which resembles a ship's bow and, according to UNESCO, "represents the most significant artistic and architectural achievement of German Brick Expressionism."

"It strongly influenced brick architecture of the 1920s and 1930s in Northern Europe and is also one of Germany's first high-rise buildings," it said in a statement. — AFP


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