Korean heritage at UNESCO

unescoKorea is rightly proud of some of its heritage, much of which has been given official recognition by UNESCO. For those of you who like lists, here are the various items of Korea’s tangible and intangible heritage which have been so listed. Also included below are links to any LKL articles on these treasures.

(1) World Heritage

First, possibly the most high-profile list, mainly because it’s a list of things that you can tick off on your trips around Korea.

YearCultural heritage itemLKL links
1995Seokguram Grotto and Bulguksa Temple (ROK)Here
1995Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon, the Depositories for the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks (ROK)Here
1995Jongmyo Shrine (ROK)Here
1997Changdeokgung Palace Complex (ROK)Here
1997Hwaseong Fortress (ROK)Here
2000Gyeongju Historic Areas (ROK)Here
2000Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites (ROK)Here
2004Complex of Koguryo Tombs (DPRK)N/a
2009Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty (ROK)Here
2010Historic Villages of Korea: Hahoe and Yangdong (ROK)N/a
2013Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong (DPRK)Here
2014Namhansanseong Fortress (ROK)Here
2018Baekje Historic Areas (ROK)Here
2015Sansa, Buddhist Mountain Monasteries in Korea (ROK)N/a

In addition, there’s one item of Natural heritage which gets listed:

YearNatural heritage itemLKL Link
2007Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes (ROK)N/a

(2) Intangible Cultural Heritage

Next, the Intangible Cultural Heritage items. But what is Intangible Cultural Heritage? This, from the UNESCO site:

According to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the intangible cultural heritage – or living heritage – is the mainspring of our cultural diversity and its maintenance a guarantee for continuing creativity.

The Convention states that the ICH is manifested, among others, in the following domains:

  • Oral traditions and expressions including language as a vehicle of the intangible cultural heritage;
  • Performing arts (such as traditional music, dance and theatre);
  • Social practices, rituals and festive events;
  • Knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe;
  • Traditional craftsmanship.

The following items of Korea’s heritage are listed:

YearCultural heritage itemLKL Link
2001Royal Ancestral Ritual in the Jongmyo Shrine and its Music (ROK)Here
2003Pansori Epic Chant (ROK)Here
2005Gangneung Danoje Festival (ROK)Here
2009Namsadang Nori (ROK)N/a
2009Yeongsanjae (ROK)Here
2009Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeongdeunggut (ROK)N/a
2009Ganggangsullae (ROK)N/a
2009Cheoyongmu (ROK)N/a
2010Daemokjang, traditional wooden architecture (ROK)N/a
2010Gagok, lyric song cycles accompanied by an orchestra (ROK)N/a
2010Taekkyeon, a traditional Korean martial art (ROK)Here
2011Jultagi, tightrope walking (ROK)Here
2011Weaving of Mosi (fine ramie) in the Hansan region (ROK)Here
2012Arirang, lyrical folk song in the Republic of Korea (ROK)Here
2013Kimjang, making and sharing kimchi in the Republic of Korea (ROK)Here
2014Nongak, community band music, dance and rituals in the Republic of Korea (ROK)N/a
2014Arirang folk song in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)Here
2015Tradition of kimchi-making in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)Here
2015Tugging rituals and games (ROK)N/a
2015Falconry (Maesanyang), a living human heritage (ROK)Here
2016Culture of Jeju Haenyeo (women divers) (ROK)Here
2018Traditional Korean wrestling (Ssirum/Ssireum) (ROK + DPRK)N/a


(3) Memory of the World

UNESCO’s programme aiming at preservation and dissemination of valuable archive holdings and library collections worldwide

YearCultural heritage itemLKL Link
1997The Hunminjeongeum ManuscriptHere
1997The Annals of the Choson DynastyHere
2001Seungjeongwon Ilgi, the Diaries of the Royal SecretariatHere
2001Baegun hwasang chorok buljo jikji simche yojeol (vol.II), the second volume of “Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests’ Zen Teachings” (the jikji)Here
2007Uigwe: The Royal Protocols of the Joseon DynastyHere
2007Printing woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana and miscellaneous Buddhist scripturesHere
2009Donguibogam: Principles and Practice of Eastern MedicineHere
2011Human Rights Documentary Heritage 1980 Archives for the May 18th Democratic Uprising against Military Regime, in Gwangju, Republic of KoreaN/a
2011Ilseongnok: Records of Daily ReflectionsN/a
2013Archives of Saemaul Undong (New Community Movement)N/a
2013Nanjung Ilgi: War Diary of Admiral Yi Sun-sinN/a
2015Confucian Printing WoodblocksN/a
2015The Archives of the KBS Special Live Broadcast “Finding Dispersed Families”N/a
2017Archives of the National Debt Redemption MovementN/a
2017Royal Seal and Investiture Book Collection of the Joseon DynastyN/a

(4) Biosphere Reserves

Possibly a less familiar list. According to the UNESCO website,

Biosphere reserves are areas of terrestrial and coastal ecosystems promoting solutions to reconcile the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use. They are internationally recognized, nominated by national governments and remain under sovereign jurisdiction of the states where they are located. Biosphere reserves serve in some ways as ‘living laboratories’ for testing out and demonstrating integrated management of land, water and biodiversity. Collectively, biosphere reserves form a world network: the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (WNBR). Within this network, exchanges of information, experience and personnel are facilitated. There are over 500 biosphere reserves in over 100 countries.

From the DPRK, the following sites are listed:

And from the ROK:

(5) Tentative list

Finally, a list of those properties which each Korea intends to consider for nomination to the World Heritage list in the future

From the ROK:

And from the DPRK:


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