[EDITORIALS]Cultural assets in the NorthThe interest that we have in the 28th session of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, which begins on Monday in Suzhou, China, differs from that of the past. This session will decide whether to include the Goguryeo tombs and relics, which are registered by both North Korea and China, in its list of world heritage sites.
North Korea had already submitted its bid to add the cultural assets to UNESCO’s list at last year’s session in Paris, but received a deferred decision.
But with the Heritage Review Panel already recommending that the relics be included, most people expect North Korea’s request to be passed at this year’s meeting. If so, North Korea will record its first listing among the world’s precious assets.
The feat is significant. UNESCO’s decision can be viewed as confirmation of Korean people’s right to claim Goguryeo as part of Korean history.
Despite criticism that it is distorting history, China has been proceeding with plans to claim Goguryeo’s past as its own. One of the reasons North Korea’s bid at the Paris session failed was that the International Council on Monuments and Sites, which included Chinese scientists, pointed out that some of the Goguryeo assets were damaged.
We also hope this will be an opportunity to open North Korea to the outside world. If the 63 tombs become recognized as a world heritage site, North Korea will be obligated to allow people to visit the relics. In this way, North Korea’s cultural assets may be the key to prying open the closed society.
Now the challenge is to preserve and maintain the tombs more carefully. Although they are located in the North, they are part of the cultural assets our ancestors have left us South Koreans. We should not disregard the costs that come with managing the assets. Considering North Korea’s economic status, we should take an active role in aiding our neighbors.
Reportedly, North Korean officials have suggested exchanging cultural assets between North and South Korea. Asset exchanges in the private sector have limitations. The political sector should raise the issue at official negotiations and discuss the matter.