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2nd Vice Minister's Opening Remarks on the occasion of the 2019 International Conference on UNESCO World Heritage Interpretation, Seoul, May 14, 2019
Opening Remarks by H.E. Amb. LEE Taeho,
Ms. Jung Jaesuk,
It is my great pleasure to announce the opening of the 2019 International Conference on UNESCO World Heritage Interpretation.
Since 2016, the Korean Government has hosted four conferences on the issue of heritage interpretation. Following last year’s conference on the significance of World Heritage interpretation, this year we will focus on the evolving conceptions of heritage and changing trends in World Heritage interpretation.
Heritage is, by definition, what our earlier generations handed over to us, what we live with today and what we will pass on to future generations. As faithful guardians of these treasures, we have the privilege and at the same time the responsibility to take care of these valuable heritages and to share them with future generations. And as stewards of this privilege, UNESCO has long supported the identification, protection, and preservation of World Heritage.
The Republic of Korea, for its part, is firmly committed to the preservation of World Heritage. At the present, Korea has a total of 49 inscribed heritages, including 13 World Heritage Sites and 20 Intangible Cultural Heritages. In addition, 16 Korean documentary heritages are listed in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
Today we received a great news that our most recent candidate for UNESCO Heritage designation, Seowon, Korean Neo-Confucian Academies, received a recommendation by ICOMOS to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. I look forward to the formal inscription of Seowon at the 43rd session of the World Heritage Committee in Baku, Azerbaijan, this coming June.
In 2018, our efforts towards heritage safeguarding led to the first joint inscription as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of a North and South Korean heritage, namely a traditional form of wrestling called ssireum. This joint inscription demonstrated that efforts to preserve common heritage can also serve as an important step toward reconciliation and peace. I would like to take this opportunity to convey Korea’s gratitude, once again, to Director-General Madam Audrey Azoulay, the Member States, and the international community for their support.
Most world heritage sites are characterized by their extraordinary beauty, yet their significance and importance go well beyond their material or physical value. In Morocco, for example, a country where I had the privilege to serve as Korean Ambassador a few years back, the Medina of Marrakesh is inscribed as one of its remarkable World Heritage Sites. Whenever I visited the Medina there, I was overwhelmed by its architecture and historical significance. Further, my experience in the Old City always brought me a deeper understanding of the rich cultural and spiritual history of Morocco.
Indeed, heritage sites are not only material manifestations of culture and history but also reflect the creation and maintenance of people’s identities and communities. In this sense, I cannot agree more with you, experts on this subject, that the meaning and value of a world heritage site is not fixed in history, but is constantly reshaped and reinterpreted by historical, social, and cultural contexts.
As our concept of heritage evolves, heritage sites can have differing and even conflicting meanings for different communities. Furthermore, these sites may often represent both positive and negative aspects of human history simultaneously for different people. I believe this is quite natural.
In light of this, it is important to recognize the need to remain open to diverse historic narratives in our current-day interpretation of World Heritage. We should not avoid our duty to face differing views on history. Hiding or neglecting any negative aspect of history is not the right approach to take. In this sense, Korea firmly believes in the importance of preparing interpretive strategies that would allow for an understanding of the full history of each World Heritage Site.
In the same line of thinking, the development of inclusive interpretation strategies that focus on achieving the reconciliation of peoples and communities is, no doubt, instrumental to the establishment of peace and security in our global community. In today’s conference, we will have the opportunity to listen to experts’ presentation on peace-building and reconciliation of cultures through heritage interpretation, and I look forward to a constructive discussion on this very important issue.
The Korean government is strongly committed to fostering balanced interpretation strategies, and we will continue to support UNESCO’s efforts in this direction. In fact, I believe that it is the shared duty of all UNESCO Member States to leave the future generation with a comprehensive and inclusive interpretation of our heritage. In this vein, all UNESCO Members are encouraged to honor their commitment to a balanced interpretation of world heritage sites as confirmed by the World Heritage Committee’s decision made at the time of inscription.
The importance of transmitting the full history to future generations is, of course, not limited to world heritage sites; we all share the same obligation to tell complete histories by preserving and passing on meaningful documentary heritage, too.
As such, I would like to highlight the Korean Government’s commitment to the UNESCO Memory of the World (MoW) Programme. The MoW Programme was born out of the recognition that the safeguarding of memory is critical to guarding against collective amnesia, neglect or concealment of inconvenient past history.
I believe it is the responsibility for all to ensure that future generations are fully aware of history to avoid repeating past mistakes. Therefore, my government reaffirms its position that MoW must stay true to the mission of preserving and facilitating access to all meaningful documentary heritage.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, we are honored to be in the presence of global scholars and experts who are playing active roles in international discussions relating to international heritage interpretation. I am confident that all the participants will spearhead conversations on the opportunities and challenges of the world heritage system.
It is my hope that today’s conference will provide us with a valuable opportunity to reflect on how we can best preserve history for future generations and reaffirm once again that the inclusive interpretation of heritage is crucial in forming our identities as global citizens, and in moving toward a peaceful and harmonious world.
Thank you. /End/