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Three Korean cultural practices added to UNESCO heritage list

UNESCO has added Korean traditional lyric songs, called "gagok," along with "daemokjang" carpentry and falconry to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This brings the total number of Korean cultural heritages listed by UNESCO to eleven.

Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration reported on November 17 that the World Heritage Committee decided to add the three Korean cultural heritages to the UNESCO listing at a meeting held on Nov. 16 in Nairobi, Kenya.

A woman performing gagok (photo courtesy of the Cultural Heritage Administration)

Gagok are traditional lyric songs from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Unlike the better-known pansori, a long-format solo singing performance accompanied by a single drum, gagok are traditional poems, called sijo, which have been set to music and are performed by a solo vocalist with a small ensemble of musicians. 
Daemokjang is the mastery of traditional Korean wooden architecture, and applies to both the buildings themselves and the master carpenters who make them. Equivalent to today's architects, daemokjang specialize in royal palaces, Buddhist temples and residential houses. This is the first time a traditional technical profession from Korea has received this level of international recognition. (left: Repairing the roof of Gwanghwamun Gate, photo courtesy of the Cultural Heritage Administration.)

Repair work on Changdeok Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Gwanghwamun, the main gate of Gyeongbok Palace, are contemporary examples of the masterful work of these craftsmen.

Falconry, or maesanyang in Korean, is a traditional sport often practiced in winter in Korea. Using trained birds of prey to catch small game birds and mammals is one of the world’s oldest hunting methods. (Right: Falconry, photo courtesy of the Cultural Heritage Administration.)

The inclusion of falconry in the UNESCO intangible heritage list was backed by a coalition of eleven countries that still practice the sport, including Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Belgium and France. This is the first time countries from so many different regions have cooperated to have a single cultural practice included on a UNESCO Heritage list.

By Yoon Sojung Staff Writer

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