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Three Korean cultural assets added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List

UNESCO has proclaimed three Korean cultural assets to be freshly added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, on November 28.

Taekkyeon (left), traditional tightrope walking (center) and mosi weaving (right) were inscribed on the 2011 List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity on November 28 (photos courtesy of the Cultural Heritage Administration).

The latest additions were adopted after the nominations were evaluated at the sixth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Bali, Indonesia.

The traditional Korean martial art taekkyeon, the tightrope-walking performance known as jultagi, and the weaving of mosi (fine ramie) in the Hansan region have joined the ranks of the UNESCO-designated Intangible Cultural Heritage List, from the six nominations submitted by Korea. The Committee decided the nomination of the following three items -- craftsmanship of Najeon, mother-of-pearl inlay, the royal cuisine of the Joseon Dynasty, and the Seokjeon Daeje ceremony honoring great Confucian scholars -– did not satisfy the criteria for inscription, and invited them for future nomination in a subsequent cycle, with additional information.

Although the likelihood of official inscriptions for Taekkyeon and Jultagi was relatively high even before their selection, as they received preliminary recommendations from the consultative body to the committee, the inclusion of mosi weaving in the list came as a pleasant surprise. The preliminary report originally said that supplementary information on traditional weaving technique for fine ramie would be required to determine its eligibility.

The weaving of mosi is a traditional cultural practice handed down from generation to generation by middle-aged women in the Hansan region, located in South Chungcheong Province. The weaving technique is characterized by its method of inheritance through female family members, in which mothers transmit the traditions to their daughters or daughters-in-law. The tradition involves a series of months-long processes from harvesting, boiling, and bleaching ramie plants to yarn spinning and final weaving on a traditional loom. Mosi weaving went onto be allegedly inscribed by UNESCO for its engagement in binding the community and its potential to enhance the global recognition of the diversity of hand-woven textiles. As of today, there are approximately 500 people who still practice the technique in the region.

On the other hand, the recent decision won taekkyeon laurels as the first traditional martial arts style officially recognized by UNESCO.

With the inclusion of three more items in the 2011 list, Korea has had a total of 14 Intangible Cultural Heritages inscribed, starting with the first proclamation of Korean cultural treasures in 2001 with the Jongmyo Jerye and Jongmyo Jerye-ak (a royal ancestral rite and ritual music performed at Jongmyo Shrine). Among other UNESCO-designated Intangible Heritages are pansori (a genre of traditional Korean narrative opera) and ganggangsuwollae, a traditional all-female group dance. Last year, UNESCO added the Korean traditional vocal music gagok, the traditional wooden architectural style Daemokjang, and falconry to its list. To access to a full list of UNESCO Treasures in Korea, please visit the following link:

An inauguration ceremony for the International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region was held on the same day in Seoul’s Grand Hilton Hotel, with the participation of leaders of the UNESCO’s national commissions and field offices based in Asia, including Irina Bokova, the incumbent Director-General of UNESCO.

The Daejeon-based centre, established as a Category 2 Centre under the auspices of UNESCO, will undertake activities to help 48 member states in Asia and the Pacific region protect and safeguard their intangible cultural heritage.

By Hwang Dana Staff Writer


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