Korea seeks UNESCO listing of Seoul City Wall, seowon

Oksan seowon in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province is one of the nine seowon Confucian academies for which a UNESCO heritage listing is being sought.
PHOTO: Conservation and Management Foundation of Seowon

The government is seeking to add the historic Seoul City Wall and Confucian academies of Korea to the UNESCO cultural heritage list this year. In addition, it also hopes to include haenyeo, female divers on the resort island of Jejudo, and Korean traditional wrestling to the intangible heritage list.

The state-run Cultural Heritage Administration outlined its plan to submit the applications for inclusion on the UNESCO lists this year at a press conference Tuesday to introduce its plans for the year.

"We will continue to discover more cultural and intangible heritage in order to enhance our global standing and promote our cultural heritage," said Na Sun-hwa, head of the CHA.

Nine Confucian academies of Korea, or seowon, were added to the tentative list of the UNESCO's Cultural Heritage in 2011. The CHA applied to include haenyeo on UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2014 and is awaiting a final decision in November.

It also plans to add new items such as lacquer craft chiljang and two historic records -- royal seals and documents and the 1907 Debt Repayment Movement -- to UNESCO's Memory of the World list. The 1907 movement was organised to pay Joseon-era Korea's debt to Japan through individual donations amid the growing influence of the imperial power that annexed Korea three years later.

To respond to the growing popularity of public programs held at major historic properties, the CHA will also increase the number of royal palace tour programs and develop more interesting programs in historic places nationwide that will appeal to both Koreans and foreign visitors.

More frequent and diverse programs will be offered at Seoul's Joseon-era palaces this year. For example, the popular Changdeokgung Palace Moonlight Tour will be held for 120 days compared to just 40 days last year. The old kitchen building of Sojubang in Gyeongbokgung Palace, which became popular after it was featured on TV drama "Jewel in the Palace," will be open to the public from April to October and run food-related programs.