To Be a Real World Heritage1)
On July 6, the nine historical places of Seowon, Korea namely, Sosuseowon, Dosanseowon, Byeongsanseowon, Oksanseowon, and other five places were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Seowon is a private educational institution established during the mid-Joseon Dynasty that specialized in the study of Confucianism and honored its teachers. According to the Cultural Heritage Administration, Seowon reflects the continuing form of education and social customs and is evidence of the development and tradition of Korean Neo-Confucian studies. In addition, Seowon shows the features that have changed in accordance by the Korean situation, which is strikingly different from the Seowon of China. Until now, Korea’s 14 heritages some of which include ‘Haeinsa Temple Janggyeong Panjeon’, ‘Hwaseong Fortress’, and ‘Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes’ are designated the UNESCO World Heritage Sites which are divided into cultural, natural and composite heritage. Most of the sites marked as Korean world heritage sites are made of wood. In Paris, Notre-Dame Cathedral, made mostly of wood, was damaged severely in a fire. Because fire could also damage sites in Korea, the necessity of protection and attention to legacies are increasing.
The Cultural Heritage Administration and local administrative bodies for the heritage sites operate in accordance with World Heritage listing standards. However, Hwaseong Fortress only has four automatic fire alarms on it despite being listed as a World Heritage Site. As this example shows, protection protocols for Korea's world heritage sites remain insufficient both in terms of implementation and long-term management. Ok Nayoung, professor of the Department of History & Culture at Sookmyung Women's University said, “I worked as a researcher at the time when Sansa was awarded a position on the list of World Heritage Sites in 2018. In the case of Sansa, its managing body like the unified management team is still unregistered.” Additionally, continued public attention is essential for the management of these heritages. Professor Ok said, "If university students can increase their understanding of related studies such as history, culture, language, and management, they will grow as experts in the field, and Korea's capabilities in the listing and protection of World Heritage sites could increase.” Being listed as a World Heritage Site involves having the values necessary to protect them as they are unique characteristics of Korea. Protecting sites’ legacy and passing that legacy over to the future generations is a task given to the present generation.
1) Noh Hyungsuk, “Nine Korea Seowon Registered as Unesco World Heritage Sites”, Hankyoreh, July 8, 2019