Korean seowon recommended for UNESCO World Heritage

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Korean seowon recommended for UNESCO World Heritage

Sosu Seowon in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province is recommended for UNESCO World Heritage List by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Korean neo-Confucian academies known as "seowon" are likely to become South Korea's 14th World Heritage designated by UNESCO.

According to the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA), Tuesday, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), an advisory body for UNESCO, recommended the seowon to be inscribed on UNESCO's world heritage list.

Seowon refers to private education institutions of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). They generally consisted of a school to prepare for the Confucian-based civil service examination and a Confucian shrine.

The academies were recognized for establishing the teacher-student lineages of neo-Confucianism in Korea, with their priority on social education and memorial rites for sages.

The history of seowon dates back to 1543, when scholar Ju Se-bung established Baegungdong Seowon, which was later renamed Sosu Seowon, under King Jungjong's reign. The neo-Confucian academies nurturing Confucian scholars were popular during the Joseon Kingdom, but were closed down under King Regent Daewongun's rule.

The nine academies included in the recommendation are Sosu Seowon in Yeongju, Oksan Seowon in Gyeongju, and Dosan and Byeongsan Seowon in Andong, all in North Gyeongsang Province; Namgye Seowon in Hamyang, South Gyeongsang Province; Dodong Seowon in Daegu; Pilam Seowon in Jangseong, South Jeolla Province; Museong Seowon in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province; and Donam Seowon in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province.

Dosan Seowon in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province is recommended for UNESCO World Heritage List by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

The ICOMOS inspects nominations for each property and suggests four measures ― inscription, referral, deferral and non-inscription ― to UNESCO, which generally accepts the recommendations.

Korea submitted the seowon to the UNESCO list in 2015 and 2016, but withdrew the application after the ICOMOS deferred, requesting further elaboration on the originality and connection as a continuous heritage of seowon. The council also pointed out that the surroundings were not included as cultural heritage areas despite the importance of the academies' mountainous location.

The CHA provided supplementary documents in January and received a passing mark from ICOMOS this time. However, it asked for a preservation plan for all nine seowon.

The final decision on the listing of the seowon will be made on June 30 at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan.

If the seowon are registered, South Korea will have 14 UNESCO world heritage sites ― Seokguram Grotto and Bulguk Temple; Jongmyo Shrine; and Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon (Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks) in 1995; Changdeok Palace and Hwaseong Fortress in 1997; Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa dolmen sites; and Gyeongju historic areas in 2000; Jeju Volcanic Island in 2007, Royal Tombs of Joseon in 2009; Hahoe and Yangdong historic villages in 2010; Namhansanseong in 2014; Baekje historic areas in 2015; and Sansa (Buddhist mountain monasteries) in 2018.


Sosu Seowon in Yeongju, North Gyeongsang Province is recommended for UNESCO World Heritage List by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

By Kwon Mee-yoo

Korean neo-Confucian academies known as "seowon" are likely to become South Korea's 14th World Heritage designated by UNESCO.

According to the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA), Tuesday, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), an advisory body for UNESCO, recommended the seowon to be inscribed on UNESCO's world heritage list.

Seowon refers to private education institutions of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). They generally consisted of a school to prepare for the Confucian-based civil service examination and a Confucian shrine.

The academies were recognized for establishing the teacher-student lineages of neo-Confucianism in Korea, with their priority on social education and memorial rites for sages.

The history of seowon dates back to 1543, when scholar Ju Se-bung established Baegungdong Seowon, which was later renamed Sosu Seowon, under King Jungjong's reign. The neo-Confucian academies nurturing Confucian scholars were popular during the Joseon Kingdom, but were closed down under King Regent Daewongun's rule.

The nine academies included in the recommendation are Sosu Seowon in Yeongju, Oksan Seowon in Gyeongju, and Dosan and Byeongsan Seowon in Andong, all in North Gyeongsang Province; Namgye Seowon in Hamyang, South Gyeongsang Province; Dodong Seowon in Daegu; Pilam Seowon in Jangseong, South Jeolla Province; Museong Seowon in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province; and Donam Seowon in Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province.

Dosan Seowon in Andong, North Gyeongsang Province is recommended for UNESCO World Heritage List by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS). Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

The ICOMOS inspects nominations for each property and suggests four measures ― inscription, referral, deferral and non-inscription ― to UNESCO, which generally accepts the recommendations.

Korea submitted the seowon to the UNESCO list in 2015 and 2016, but withdrew the application after the ICOMOS deferred, requesting further elaboration on the originality and connection as a continuous heritage of seowon. The council also pointed out that the surroundings were not included as cultural heritage areas despite the importance of the academies' mountainous location.

The CHA provided supplementary documents in January and received a passing mark from ICOMOS this time. However, it asked for a preservation plan for all nine seowon.

The final decision on the listing of the seowon will be made on June 30 at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee to be held in Baku, Azerbaijan.

If the seowon are registered, South Korea will have 14 UNESCO world heritage sites ― Seokguram Grotto and Bulguk Temple; Jongmyo Shrine; and Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon (Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks) in 1995; Changdeok Palace and Hwaseong Fortress in 1997; Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa dolmen sites; and Gyeongju historic areas in 2000; Jeju Volcanic Island in 2007, Royal Tombs of Joseon in 2009; Hahoe and Yangdong historic villages in 2010; Namhansanseong in 2014; Baekje historic areas in 2015; and Sansa (Buddhist mountain monasteries) in 2018.


Kwon Mee-yoo meeyoo@koreatimes.co.kr


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