Korea vies to place Arirang on Unesco heritage list

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Korea vies to place Arirang on Unesco heritage list

The South Korean government will submit an application to Unesco this Friday in an attempt to include Arirang - a traditional Korean folk song - to the global body’s list of Intangible Heritage of Humanity, an official at the Cultural Heritage Administration said yesterday.

“If we submit the application by the 30th, the review will likely be completed within this year,” the official told the JoongAng Ilbo.

This is a shift from the South Korean government’s original goal to push for the inscription together with the North Korean government.

Last year, Choi Kwang-sik, the minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said that South Korea and North Korea would together submit the application to have Arirang from both Koreas listed. CHA operates under the ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

The song - practically an unofficial national anthem - has a plethora of renditions sprung from every region of Korea over the decades.

There are thought to be between 70 and 80 versions of the Arirang in South and North Korea. Jeongseon Arirang - the version from Jeongseon, Gangwon - is the most well-known in the South.

But experts warn of potential nationalist foment in the envisioned inscription. In June of last year, China registered Arirang as its state-designated intangible cultural property, triggering strong protests from South Koreans. Beijing has claimed that it merely registered the song as part of the culture of ethnic Koreans in China, but some South Korean experts say it could be a precursor to registering it on the Unesco World Heritage list.

By Kang Ki-heon, Kim Hyung-eun [hkim@joongang.co.kr]
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