[KS] Koguryo inquiry

Han, Junhi J.Han at unesco.org
Fri Dec 29 01:27:07 EST 2006

Dear Frank Hofmann, 


Re. your comment on my last posting, 


What is wrong with such statement? There was a pretty clear labeling attempt here, and as you know a very intense discussion followed. Wouldn't it be too blue-eyed to claim there was no such intended labeling going on? UNESCO declaring that things should not be this way seems wishful thinking at best. What is wrong here with Dr. Petrov's statement?


I think my comment was not very well understood. My apologies for Dr Petrov, if it sounded criticizing, which was not my intention. I did not say there was no such attempt, but simply wanted to take this opportunity to bring attention to what is the appropriate definition of being in the WHList and accurate understanding on the UNESCO WH Convention ( I think accurate understanding on the Convention is also important).


After that, independently from how Convention should work, how member states would use it in reality for any political purpose, is a totally different matter and these two things should not be mixed and must be dealt with separately. So as a South Korean, before being UNESCO official, I fully agree with you that in the case of Koguryo, there was and still is “clear attempting” , no doubt. But again, I also would like to insist that does not mean that inscription of Koguryo heritage in the Chinese side on the WHList brings an automatic official recognition by the Committee for their cultural identity. 


That is why I mentioned the role of ICOMOS. I am currently in Seoul for my holidays and there is an ICOMOS executive committee member who was in Seoul for WH Business. Yesterday, when I had a dinner with him, took the opportunity of being in Korea (I can say more freely as a Korean citizen rather than UNESCO official), I severely critised ICOMOS for the fact they have become almost an IGO, and did not pay enough attention on the issue clarifying cultural identify of proposed cultural properties for the WHL. Indeed, the issue of “ancient civilization and modern geography” is a wide, complex and complicate issue, and he agreed that at least there should be a serious deliberation on this among the ICOMOS members dealing with WHC and responsible for evaluation of the proposed properties. 


In reality and officially, it is only the Central Government of China who is entitled to submit the Koguryo sites in China to the WHCommittee for their inscription on the WH List, neither DPRK nor ROK can do it under the current geography! And I should say that I am very pleased to see that three Koguryo historic sites  in China along with the tombs and mural paintings were put on the WHList. The inscription of the Koguryo heritage in China shows the Koguryo civilization in a more complex way, rather than inscription of the individual tombs as monuments (the DPRK side).  And after all, thanks to this initiative, by now the ICOMOS executive members are aware of Koguryo’s sensitive issue, they had no idea on Koguryo: its sensitive nature and meaning for Koreans, neither its linkage with China nor political use from Chinese side…I can not go further details here, but I can say that it was one of the most sensitive and highly politised inscription.

At the Secretariat there was even reminder of the code of ethics on   conduct of international civil servant’, and of course that was more or less targeted officials like me with delicate nationality (Korean in this business). …


I hope this time, I made myself understood. There was clearly a political attempt from Chinese side, but I wanted to explain there theoretically how UNESCO Convention functioned and again would like to insist that this should be dealt with separately from how state parties would use it according to their intention… 


Regarding your comment on authenticity,  


I think your point is exactly what I wanted to point out in my previous email, as I felt the Tongmyong Tombs (in Dr Petrov’ s paper) authenticity was questioned in the article of Dr Petrov. 


Did I misunderstood the article of Dr Petrov ? If yes, again my apologies. At least that was my understanding when I read his article so I wanted to explain that indeed, that beautification (I think Dr Petrov used another wording, maybe ‘reconstruction?’) was hotly debated but at the end it was accepted by ICOMOS  that the beautification carried out did not much damage authenticity of the Tomb. It is true that many European historic cities, damaged during the second world war, were put on the WHList after having gone through the reconstruction.  


Re. Tangun tomb, I used the wording of reconstruction, because it was reconstructed on the basis of a tomb, so actually the tomb itself of reconstruction. But again, of course, one can argue that if the tomb originally placed is not the Tangun tomb, then we can not possibly call it “ reconstruction”. We can go on and on with these issue, but I will stop here. I thank Frank Hofmann for providing me with the opportunity to bring additional comment. 



Junhi Han 


From: koreanstudies-bounces at koreaweb.ws 이(가) 다음 사람 대신 보냄 Frank Hoffmann
Sent: 12/28/2006 (목) 11:53 오전
To: Korean Studies Discussion List
Subject: Re: [KS] Koguryo inquiry

To Junhi Han:

Reading your last posting I would like to make two points:


You wrote:

	First of all, through the article [by Dr Petrov], 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 ŒKoguryo was named a Chinese state¹. (...)

	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.

What is wrong with such statement? There was a pretty clear labeling attempt here, and as you know a very intense discussion followed. Wouldn't it be too blue-eyed to claim there was no such intended labeling going on? UNESCO declaring that things should not be this way seems wishful thinking at best. What is wrong here with Dr. Petrov's statement?


In your "authenticity" discussion, quoted below, you make it sound as if the adaption of a discourse that was going on in archaeology and art history a product of UNESCO's policy. I guess you do this in your function as UNESCO official. To me this seems like a reversal of reason and outcome. "Authenticity should comprise not only the physical but also intangible value[s] of monuments" -- that's indeed a one-to-one adoption of changes in perspectives of archaeology and art history. Every archaeologist knows that authenticity is a very elastic term that changes by the hour. Go to any Romanesque or Gothic European cathedral and what the average tourist may think is an authentic building was in fact restored and reconstructed ten times and each wall may show a different taste of a different period and that period's taste and representation of the past. In that sense we are never in a "historic" building "as it once was." If one looks closer the meaning of authenticity in Japan and its wooden building constructions and reconstructions are not any more extreme than is the case in Europe. I find it therefore also very questionable to point to the "beautification" of King Tongmyong's Tomb -- is what was done there any different from what was done at Notre Dame de Paris or in Dresden or at Sokkuram? I do not see any qualitative or structural difference. As for your Tan'gun Tomb example -- why is this called a "reconstruction"? Isn't it a construction? Or is there any archaeologic evidence that this completely new constructed pyramid is even the geographic site for the *mythological* founder of Koguryo? Not everything North Korea puts on the plate needs to be discussed as if it where on the same level in a scientific discourse.


quote Junhi Han:

	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 ancestors¹ 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 dynasty¹s founder¹s tombs?but it was from this point of view that the beautification of the King Tongmyong¹ tomb was argued and finally accepted. Fortunately, the tumulus itself was not included in the beautification range?


	Certainly the beautification of Tongmyong¹ 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?.

Frank Hoffmann
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