[KS] Koguryo inquiry

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Fri Dec 29 20:16:07 EST 2006

Hello Junhi Han and others:

In your reply you seems you continue to discuss 
*internal* UNESCO politics. Did anyone here 
misunderstand UNESCO policies (meaning of WH 
List,etc.)? I think nobody did. But there is a 
political application, use and abuse of UNESCO's 
work -- and that is not all too complicated to 

>It is true that many European historic cities, 
>damaged during the second world war, were put on 
>the WHList after having gone through the 

I heard rumors that some small pockets of life 
exist even outside of UNESCO -)::  "WH List"? 
Building preservation and reconstruction was 
going on since ever. *That* was my point. 
UNESCO's role in all this is very minor. You find 
building preservation measures and 
reconstructions of older castles, cathedrals, 
etc. that were done in the 18th century, for 
example. These followed contemporary ideas of 
antiquity, and this was happening all through 
history. The Romans reconstructed Greek buildings 
and statues. And in my cathedral example I was 
trying to point to the fact that in the very same 
building you usually find many preservation and 
reconstruction attempts from various periods that 
reconstructed different periods of the same 
building. Even within the same reconstruction 
attempt, if it went on for several decades, you 
will find huge differences in what was actually 
reconstructed. The Green Vault in the Dresden 
castle as well as the castle itself are wonderful 
examples for this.
Various parts of the castle were reconstructed -- 
starting shortly after the building had been 
finished. The building was under permanent 
construction and reconstruction ever since it 
existed. And each decade had different ideas of 
what was "historic" and how to preserve or 
beautify this. So you end up with a building that 
reflects different historic periods in every wall 
and in various details of the same building. 
There is no historic building that would be 
preserved as it was in say the early 18th 
century. My home town, Hildesheim, was one of the 
main centers in medieval Europe (around the year 
1000). And even the changes of city wall 
reconstructions, placement of bricks, metal and 
stone decorations from that period, re-opening or 
closing of entrances to historic buildings, 
positioning of entrance and street levels, etc., 
have changed quite dramatically between the time 
I went to school there and 2006. All this started 
well before the bombings of WW II. It's an 
ongoing project. For example (I am preparing a 
piece about this issue) it had always been taken 
for granted that individualism of the artist 
resp. artisan begun with the Renaissance. But 
looking at various art pieces from mentioned 
medieval city we now have plenty of evidence that 
there was quite a strong sense of individualism 
and understanding of the role of the artist 
(rather than the artisan) going on as early as 
the late 10th century. From this changing 
perspective (still not well published) I noticed 
that the emphasis in how the city displays art 
since the 1990s and also in how and what it 
preserves and reconstructs is changing. That is 
what I meant -- we are facing a different reality 
of historic buildings and art, and we are 
preserving and reconstructing things according to 
our ever changing interests and knowledge. If you 
then study building history you will be able to 
detect and read this like the rings of a tree. 
All this is really not about WW II or UNESCO.
And in Northern Korea and China it relates to 
UNESCO only since a couple of years. Preservation 
specialists like Professor Rocco Mazzeo (from 
Bologna) are now involved for UNESCO in leading 
positions with the task to help North Korea and 
China to find better preservation techniques of 
Koguryô tombs. How very political this entire 
issue is, and how little UNESCO is in control of 
any such issues (other than what you seem to 
indicate) became evident at the October 2005 
Koguryô conference in Berlin. Not just that the 
North Koreans did not show up at all (although 
Berlin might be considered neutral ground -- they 
even have their own embassy there), but the 
reaction towards Professor Mazzeo's talk, where 
several leading South Korean archaeologists and 
art historians left the conference room, shows 
that all this is politics-pure.

Best regards,

Frank Hoffmann

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