Wednesday, November 17, 2010

3 Korean traditions named world treasures

"Maesanyang" or falcon hunting is among three Korean traditions that were included in UNESCO's intangible world heritage list, Tuesday. /Korea Times file

By Lee Hyo-won

Three Korean cultural traditions were added to the intangible heritage list of the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage named three local assets ― ``gagok’’ (lyrical songs), ``daemokjang’’ (wooden architectural craftsmanship) and ``maesanyang’’ (falcon hunting) ― to the intangible list in a session held Tuesday in Nairobi, Kenya.

``The three elements Korea submitted have been inscribed in the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage,’’ Lucia Iglesias Kuntz, a UNESCO spokesperson in Paris, was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.
Gagok was widely used for character development among the elite of the Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910). There are separate songs for men and women ― the former, of which there are 26, are characterized by strong, deep, reverberating vocals while the latter, of which there are 15, are high-pitched and lilting. Gagok is sung in accompaniment to a small band of musical instruments and are often melancholic and solemn.

Daemokjang refers to woodworkers who engage in prominent architectural projects such as palaces and temples, or the craftsmanship they preserve. Their knowledge and skills have been passed down from one generation to another and the masters of the craft are recognized as holders of Important Intangible Cultural Asset No. 74 by the Korean government.

Falcon hunting was a traditional sport Koreans practiced during the winter. The recognition was shared with 10 other countries ― the United Arab Emirates, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Mongolia, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Syria ― which have developed their own falcon hunting traditions, Kuntz said.

With Tuesday’s addition, the number of Korean world intangible assets is currently 11. Other traditions include ``ganggangsullae,’’ a 5,000-year-old dance in which people, holding hands in a circle, sing under the full moon of the Chuseok fall harvest holiday, as well as the Royal Ancestral Rite and Ritual Music at the Jongmyo Shrine, to which the Joseon kings carried out ancestral memorial ceremonies.

The heritage status, officially called the UNESCO Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, was established in 1997 to ensure the safeguarding of intangible cultural assets that are increasingly giving way to industrialization and globalization.

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