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Koguryo Relics Named World Heritage Sites

Posted July. 01, 2004 22:25,   


Historical relics from the Koguryo kingdom belonging to both North Korea and China were added to the list of world heritage sites yesterday at the 28th session of UNESCO`s World Heritage Committee (WHC) in Suzhou, China.

The committee`s decision gives North Korea, which joined the UNESCO World Heritage Convention in 1998, its first internationally recognized world heritage site. It is the 30th cultural and natural heritage site for China, which became a party to the convention in 1985.

These relics from North Korea and China were expected to be listed much earlier when the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a consultative body for the WHC, submitted recommendations for both sets of relics.

However, whether the relics from the both countries would be recognized by the WHC was called into question when a controversy arose over whether the Koguryo kingdom would be considered part of Korean or Chinese history.

At this year`s meeting, 48 sites from 36 countries are being considered for inclusion on WHC`s list of outstanding cultural and natural sites. China`s Koguryo relics were 16th on the list, and North Korea`s were 24th.

North Korea nominated a group of 63 tombs--including 16 with mural paintings and the Tongmyong Royal Tombs in the Pyungyang area--to be designated as world cultural sites under the name of "Koguryo Tombs." Among other relics, China submitted Kuknae Castle at Jian in Jilin Province for consideration under the name of the "Ancient Kingdom`s Capital Cities and Royal Tombs."

At the 27th UNESCO session in July 2003, held in Paris, France, North Korea reportedly registered its tombs and mural paintings, but they were rejected, allegedly because of poor preservation and the North Korean government`s refusal to allow ICOMOS research on the sites.

Yoo-Seong Hwang yshwang@donga.com