Korean Cultural Heritage

I. Documentary Cultural Heritage – Jikji

In the history of the mankind,  there have been many efforts to deliver information quickly and accurately. Before the invention of printing, there were paintings on the cave wall and images carved in a stone or on a wooden board. Stories were handed down orally. Countless hours and unmeasurable efforts were dedicated to transcriptions. This was how the mankind passed on information for future generations.

With the advent of printing, however, access to much more information was given to many more people. Particularly, invention and spread of movable metal type printing revolutionized the way information is delivered and changed the history of the world. As such, the metal typeset is recognized as the best invention over the past millennium.

And, Korea invented the movable metal type printing in 1230s.

Jikji is now in the hands of the National Library of France. It is the oldest publication in existence printed by movable metal typeset. And, Jikji anteceded “42-line Bible” printed by Gutenberg’s metal typeset by 78 years.

As for the metal typeset, records show Korea outpacing the West by 200 years. German scholars on printing suggested a theory of “Type Road”. They argued that the Korean movable metal type printing may have spread from Korea to Europe along this Road via China and the Middle East.

For the past millennium, the culture of printed publication has propelled the human civilization.
Now, its convergence with multimedia communication technologies has opened a new era.

In this new era, the printed publication industry of Korea is aggregated in an IT-semicounductorsemiconductor city of ChungjuCheongju. It boasts the world’s best capabilities in the high-tech industry such as the Internet, semiconductor, and memory chips.  And, the world’s fastest information and communication network has been built.

Cyber diplomatic mission diplomatic organization VANK has begun a campaign with Chungju Cheongju Early Printing Museum. The campaign is to introduce Jikji to the world. After all, it is the oldest publication in existence printed by movable metal typeset the word over. 

2. Intangible Cultural Heritage – Pansori

Pansori is a traditional Korean narrative song and important cultural heritage of Korea.
It was designated as a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2003.

On the stage of Pansori, there are two performers. One is the singer ‘clown’ and the other is the tambour ‘gosu’ ‘Gosu’ who beats time with a drum. During the performance, the audience does not sit still. Rather, the audience lightens the atmosphere by making verbal sounds called chuimsaeChuimsae. This participatory aspect of the audience makes Pansori unique.   As the clown and the audience become one, Pansori is finally completed.

Of Pansori performances, there are many that last more than 8 hours. That’s why time for rest as well as meal is designated during a performance.

What is more surprising is the fact that the clown handles countless songs with various tunes for the entire 8 hours on the stage without anyone helping.

In the modern times, Pansori has evolved into Changgeuk and Madanggeuk that have theatrical elements. Most of Pansori, which we find easily approachable and interesting nowadays, is Madanggeuk. Madanggeuk is similar to a play where many actors and musical instruments appear on the stage. Unique and humorous characters put on comical acting. So, it is much loved even by foreigners who do not understand Korean.

And, unique tradition of Pansori that engages the audience to become one with performers on the stage lives on in Madanggeuk as well.

Natural Cultural Heritage – Jeju-do

Jeju-do Jeju-do Island is a huge island located in the Southern part of Korean peninsula. The island has long been famous for having three things in abundance. They are stones, wind and women. Numerous natural heritages boasting picturesque scenes are well preserved. That’s why Koreans as well as people around the world head for Jeju-do Jeju-do Island for their vacation.

Recently, one Chinese tour magazine cited Jeju-do Jeju-do Island as the most favorite tourist attraction chosen by Chinese. As such, there is a continuous influx of foreign tourists into Jeju-do.

In 2002, Jeju-do Jeju-do Island was named as World Natural Heritage and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.  Then in 2010, the entire island was disignated designated as World GeoparkGeopark.
This makes Jeju-do Jeju-do Island the only site that has recorded triple crown in the world of nature and environment. 

At the center of the island, there stands the extinct volcano Mt. Hallasan. Crater lake Lake Baengokdam Baekrokdam rests atop the mountain. Numerous medicinal herbs, plants and wild animals call it their home, infusing it with vitality.  

The entire island of Jeju-do Jeju-do Island is natural heritage itself. And, to have best sense of the island, “Ollegil” is recommended for walking. Olle is the Jeju dialect, which means a narrow path connecting a gate of each house all the way to the town.

Ollegil of Jeju-do Jeju-do Island is connecting Korea to the world. As foreigners take a walk on Ollegil in Jeju-do Island, they can experience the traditional culture of Jeju-do. They can also enjoy sceneries that have been recognized as international tourist sites.

7.4km-long-cave Manjanggul is another tourist attraction in Jeju-do Island. Even in the middle of summer, the temperature inside the cave maintains 15 degrees celsius or so. The cave continues to attract many people after being designated as one of geopark Geopark sites.

No words can describe sceneries of the red sun rising seen from Seongsan Ilchulbong or Sunrise Peak.  And of Cheonji-yeon Waterfall as well as Dragonhead Beach. Such superb views will forever reside in the minds of any foreigner visiting Korea. 

Cultural Heritage – Changdeokgung  Palace

Changdeokgung Palace and Gyeongbokgung Palace are representative palaces of Korea.

Changdeokgung Palace was built in the east of Gyeongbokgung Palace in 1405. Of palaces in the Joseon Dynasty period (1392-1910), it was a home to many kings for the longest time. In palaces of most Asian countries, major buildings situates in an orderly and symmetric manner and in a straight line.

By contrast, Changdeokgung Palace has unique charm shown through its atypical formative beauty. Buildings are placed along the mountain ridge deep into a valley, as if the valley is embracing the buildings.

In addition, various kinds of pavilions, ponds, trees and oddly shaped stones are placed by geographical features in a harmonious manner. Through such harmony, beauty of a Korean style garden radiates itself.

Among Korean palaces, Changdeokgung Palace is most well preserved. Its excellence in coexisting with the Nature has listed itself as UNESCO World Heritage in 1997. Korean palaces are different from those of China and Japan. Their walls are built low. And, there are no high watch towers for security.

Furthermore, Koreans did not build grand and huge palaces to display power of a king and authority of a country.

This is to communicate with the commons over the low-rising walls and to live in harmony with the Nature. Instead of building strong and high walls that separate the palace from the commons, the Korean royal families chose otherwise. Geunjeongjeon is the place where national affairs were discussed. It was named “diligence helps governance”.  But, the name was not used to show dignity of the King.

It was named such to remind the king to tend to national affairs diligently. The name made the king remember his responsibility of taking good care of his people. Beautiful Changdeokgung Palace, once home for many kings, resides in the capital city Seoul of Korea.  The palace will present priceless memories for visitors to remember the Land of the Morning Calm, Korea.

Leave A Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.