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"Traditional Korean Wrestling (Ssirum/Ssireum)" of Two Koreas Jointly Inscribed as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO
1. At its 13th session underway in Port Louis, Mauritius, from November 26 till December 1, UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage finally decided on November 26 to approve the joint inscription of “Ssirum/Ssireum, traditional Korean wrestling” of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO.
2. Details regarding the joint inscription are as follows.
° The ROK submitted an application for the UNESCO inscription of “Ssireum” in March 2016, a year after the DPRK had done so in March 2015. At its eleventh session in 2016, the Intergovernmental Committee asked the DPRK to provide additional information, deferring the inscription. In response, the DPRK submitted a revised application in March 2017 for another round of review.
° The ROK, after consultations among the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cultural Heritage Administration and other relevant agencies, sent a letter to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, asking for the joint inscription of “Ssireum” of the ROK and the DPRK. The DPRK, likewise, submitted a similar letter to the UNESCO Director-General.
° After a review, the UNESCO Secretariat submitted on November 26, a few days ahead of the original schedule, the joint bid to the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage to handle it as an urgent agenda. The Intergovernmental Committee, with the unanimous support of its 24 member states, decided to approve the joint bid.
- Given the similarities between the ROK and the DPRK in practice and the transmission of the legacy of Ssireum as well as the sport’s social and cultural significance to the community, and pursuant to the recommendation by the evaluation panel for the inscription of both Ssireum and Ssirum of the ROK and DPRK, respectively, the Intergovernmental Committee made an unprecedented decision to approve the joint registration.
° As a result, the sport has been added to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of UNESCO as “Traditional Korean Wrestling (Ssirum/Ssireum).”
※ Including Ssireum, the ROK now has 20 intangible cultural heritages recognized by UNESCO, while the DPRK has 3.
3. The joint registration came as a result of the discussion on the matter between President Moon Jae-in and UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay on October 16.
° The inscription marks the first joint registration of an intangible heritage shared by the ROK and the DPRK. Having come as a result of robust cooperation between an international organization and the international community that supported the ROK’s intent, the move is seen to have created a new momentum for inter-Korean exchanges regarding cultural heritage.
° The joint registration was the outcome of the ROK government’s cooperation with the DPRK and UNESCO built on cooperation among the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Cultural Heritage Administration and the Korea Ssireum Association.
4. Going forward, the ROK government, through consultations with the DPRK and UNESCO, will actively seek inscriptions of other shared heritages of Korean people on UNESCO lists.
* unofficial translation