Benefits of listing spur ‘war of registration’ between three nationsAlthough there are no monetary gains from having a cultural asset officially recognized by Unesco, the effects of a mention are huge.
The islets of Jeju, which became a Unesco World Natural Heritage site in 2007, saw a 20 percent boost in the number of tourists within a year after being added to the list.
But it’s a winding road to make the cut, and countless sites and cultural products are eliminated because of a lack of government support or a difference of opinion.
This year, of the 31 cultural assets that applied for a listing, seven were eliminated.
The so-called war of registration is especially volatile among Korea, Japan and China.
The Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage lists were established in 2001, and China leads the way with 29 Intangible Cultural Assets. Japan is No. 2 with 21, while South Korea is third with 15.
Of the 257 Intangible Cultural Heritage items approved by Unesco, 25.3 percent (65) are claimed by the three nations.
Often, the bid to claim a cultural asset that is similar to a neighbor’s leads to arguments and shakes up a nation’s identity, too.
In 2011, China was met with much backlash and anger from the Korean public when it tried to register the Korean folk song “Arirang” as its own. In the end, it led to a quickening of the soliciting process that South Korea and North Korea had been talking about for a long time, and the song was listed as a communal cultural asset of the North and South.
Next year, Japan will try to register some of the commercial sites that brought on the economic boom during the Meiji era in the Kyushu and Yamaguchi areas.
These hot spots are mostly steel mills, dockyards and mines. The problem that this petition poses is that 4,700 Koreans were practically worked like slaves inside the shipyard in Nagasaki, and more than 100 Koreans lost their lives working in the Hashima mines.
When the Korean government heard of Japan’s intentions to register these sites in September, it asked high officials at the Japanese Embassy in South Korea to intervene.
The diplomatic corps also stepped in, saying they’ll spend money on overseas promotions to stop Japan’s petition.
Due to these recurring tensions between the three nations over the listings, Unesco has decide to establish a limit of one registration per year per nation.
In addition, if a specific culture is prevalent in neighboring nations, too, then it’s urged that the nations make a joint application.
Meanwhile, some nations have complained that Korea, Japan and China are monopolizing the listings. One source who wished to remain anonymous expressed a frustration shared by others.
“This isn’t supposed to be the Olympics,” the source said, “but the three countries keep competing as if it were. It’d be best and more meaningful if the three worked together to register for an asset communally.”
BY KANG CHAN-HO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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