[KS] Koguryo inquiry

Han, Junhi J.Han at unesco.org
Wed Dec 27 06:17:04 EST 2006

Dear List members, 


I am afraid that the thread of the “Koguryo Inquiry” got already lost, nevertheless, I felt obliged to come back to this thread to comment on a couple of issues. I have read with great interest the article of Dr Petrov published in “Review of Korean Studies Journal" referenced in the below-email, and I should say some information contained in the article are susceptible to provide some misunderstanding on the UNESCO World Heritage Convention and its procedure of inscription on its List. 


First of all, through the article, one could believe that when the koguryo cultural heritage was put on the list of WH from Chinese side, then it could be considered as if ‘Koguryo was named a Chinese state’.

Inscription of a cultural or natural property on the List of WH provides in no case a direct link to its cultural identity or nationality. Borders between states have been changing constantly throughout history, while built monuments or archaeological sites have for millennia been standing and still stand where they were built. For example, many Armenian cultural heritages are found in the current Turkish territory. Recently the Ohkhon Valley in Mongolia has been put on the list of WH as a Turkic heritage. The Government of Mongolia, when submitting the nomination dossier, clearly pointed out that this was a cultural heritage site dated Turkic period. In this way, the cultural identity of the Orkhon Valley was clarified.   


On the other hand, China' s case is different. Like many other aspects in China, nomination dossier of heritages located in the CPR is prepared in accordance with its national policy: One Greater China composed of number of multi-ethnic tribes. This means that any cultural property submitted for the WHL, regardless of its cultural identity, it is Chinese. Clarifying its cultural identity is not the duty of the WH Committee as it is an intergovernmental committee, however, when ICOMOS (which is an non-governmental organization) evaluating the value of proposed properties, there are rooms to comment and I personally believe that ICOMOS should be more vigilant in this issue… 


Secondly, the above-article also describes the DPRK authorities completely incompetent in the procedure of nomination of the Koguryo heritage, while Chinese would get a glorious victory over it. It is true that the inscription of the Koguryo tombs and mural paintings in the DPRK side, examined by the WH Committee in 2003, were postponed into 2004. In light of this, one should note that this was partly due to the calendar of the examination of the nomination dossier of the Chinese side of Koguryo heritage planned for 2004. 


Although the ICOMOS evaluation mission carried out to the complex of the Koguryo tombs in DPRK came out with a couple of issues to be clarified in terms of conservation and accessibilities to certain tombs, thanks to the additional report from the DPRK providing additional information/clarification on the questions raised by the ICOMOS evaluation mission, the presentation of the candidature (DPRK Koguryo) to the 2003 WH Committee by ICOMOS was very positive. It was, nevertheless, recommended and thus decided to differ the examination of the nomination dossier of the Koguryo Tombs of the DPRK to 2004 in order to have a harmonized examination of the properties along with the Koguryo heritage from China to be examined by the WH Committee in 2004. In this way, the Committee could examine the Koguryo heritage lying scattered in both side of the Amnok river (we often use this expression) together, taking into account the fact that two separately submitted nomination dossiers concerned the heritage from same civilization, more or less same period and most importantly very much complement each other. 


Indeed, from UNESCO side, from the very beginning we wanted to have both sides of the Koguryo heritage on the list of WH same time in order to avoid any political implication it could have given. Unfortunately, the Chinese government decided to come to join in this nomination quite lately, which made the calendar of the examination of the Chinese side of Koguryo heritage for 2004. 


Just for further information, UNESCO has been making efforts to convince the DPRK authorities on the need of ratifying the UNESCO 1972 World Heritage Convention since beginning of 90s. Certainly Professor Hirayama’s efforts accelerated the ratification of the DPRK of the WH Convention, but one should not ignore the 10 -year efforts made behind of this. In the same way, when received the intention of the DPRK government to submit the Koguryo tombs for their inscription on the WH List, UNESCO contacted immediately the relevant authorities in China so that they would in their turn submit the other side of the Koguryo heritage on the WH list. However, as mentioned above, the Chinese acted positively after some time, which made the time-lapse between the calendar of the examination of two sides of Koguryo heritage.  


All these (5th paragraph) coincided with the fact that China held the chairmanship of the WH Committee for two years, 2003 and 2004. By tradition, the chairmanship within the WH Committee is lying with the state party hosting a Committee meeting. In 2003 WH Committee meeting was supposed to be hosted by China, unfortunately, due to SARS, the Committee meeting took place in Paris, and China sent an exceptionally big delegation by keeping of course the chairmanship (so it was the Chinese delegation that were exceptionally numerous while 2 DPRK delegation members participating in the WH Committee was a quite common practice, all the more the DPRK was not the committee member). Finally in 2004, the Committee meeting took place in Suzhou, China.   


Therefore I felt that it was too severe to call ‘incompetent’ or ‘failure’ the above-mentioned 

situation. On the contrary, UNESCO appreciated very much the efforts made by the DPRK government to come out with a very good nomination dossier, all the more it was their first such exercise. The preparation of nomination dossier is a long and complex procedure which often lasts more than two years. In spite of difficult condition of preparation (no doubt), the nomination dossier finally submitted by the DPRK met with the necessary criteria stipulated by the operational guidelines of the WH Convention and well accepted by the Secretariat, as well as by ICOMOS.   


Regarding the authenticity, this is a very much argued issue, I must say. However, I also would like to mention that the notion of authenticity has been evolved since 60s (since the declaration of the Venice Charter) and it is now applied into much broader context, in particular since the adoption of the Document on Authenticity declared in Nara 1994 (so-called the Nara Document on Authenticity). Since then, the notion on authenticity blindly applied until recently according to the Venice Charter (1964) is no longer valid. 

Authenticity should comprises not only physical authenticity but also intangible value of monuments or sites. The intangible value can be traditional knowledge, technique or even tradition(practice). For such reason, the beautification of the Tongmyong Tomb (Jinpari X) provided an intensive debates and deliberation between experts involved in the evaluation and in the WH inscription procedure. It is true that in Korea, there is a tradition of taking care of ancestors’ tombs and beautification can be perceived even as duty even for ordinary citizens…  I do not know what is the usual practice in South Korea or in China in care of a dynasty’s founder’s tombs…but it was from this point of view that the beautification of the King Tongmyong’ tomb was argued and finally accepted. Fortunately, the tumulus itself was not included in the beautification range…

Certainly the beautification of Tongmyong’ Tomb is at a different level than the reconstruction of the Tanggun Tomb which is not included among the complex of the 63 Koguryo tombs inscribed on the WH List. I am not arguing here that the beautification of the Tongmyong Tomb was appropriate or not, but simply say that this issue could be seen from different angles….


At last, regarding the information “Even in a case of military dispute, a place once registered as a World Heritage Site is not permitted to be attacked under international law,’ in fact, this concerns the UNESCO Hague Convention (adopted in 1954) concerning the protection of cultural heritage in case of armed conflicts. The inscription of a cultural or natural property in the list of the WH Convention does not provide automatic application of the UNESCO Hague Convention, however, application of two conventions can provide a better protection of cultural and natural properties in the list of WH.  


 I hope my email written quickly in disorder could make sense for most of the list members. If you have any question, or need clarification, I would be more than happy to provide it.


Best regards

Junhi Han   


Junhi Han

Asia and  Pacific unit

World Heritage Centre


Tel: 33 1 45 68 14 74

fax: 33 1 45 68 56 61



From: koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws 이(가) 다음 사람 대신 보냄 Leonid Petrov
Sent: 12/18/2006 (월) 2:39 오전
To: Korean Studies Discussion List
Cc: Naomi_Hellmann at brown.edu
Subject: Re: [KS] Koguryo inquiry

Dear Naomi and All,


Indeed, on 2 July 2004 the DPRK had the Koguryo murals discovered around Pyongyang and Namp'o inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. This move is expected to benefit the North Korea in many ways. A country that receives little international attention except for engineered famine and its crying abuse of human rights, its activities in nuclear weapons and missiles development has got a chance to emphasize that Koguryo was part of the history of Korean people. 


However, the DPRK was not only interested in preserving its cultural heritage. By having Koguryo mural tombs internationally recognized, North Korea also plans to establish its hegemony in the process of national unification and even to secure itself from possible preventive strikes. Even in a case of military dispute, a place once registered as a World Heritage Site is not permitted to be attacked under international law... 


More on the political economy of the Koguryo issue (as it is seen in contemporary Korea, China, and Japan) see  < http://north-korea.boom.ru/koguryo.htm >


With very best regards,


Leonid A. Petrov PhD 

Chair of Korean Studies, 


Sciences Po Asia Centre 

Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, 

Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques 


Visiting address: 2 Floor, 224, Blvd S.Germain, 75007 PARIS 

Postal address: 27, Rue S.Guillaume, F - 75337 PARIS, Cedex 07, FRANCE 

Mob.+33 6 25615963 Tel: +33 1 45497768(office) Fax: +33 1 45497761



On 15/12/06, naomi <lowenmaulchen at hotmail.com> wrote: 

	Dear List Members,


	My dissertation is focused on the political economy of Koguryo and includes the role of China and UNESCO. Any insight on locating North Korean sources of information available in either English or Chinese would be highly appreciated. 


	Thank you,




	Naomi Hellmann

	Development Studies

	Brown University 

	Naomi_Hellmann at brown.edu 


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