Unesco registers three Korean documents

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Unesco registers three Korean documents


Three Korean heritable documents have been added to Unesco’s Memory of the World list. At top left and right are royal seals, known as eobo, and an investiture book made of bamboo. At left is “A View of Waegwan” (1783), included as one of “Documents on Joseon Tongsinsa” and right, the “Archives of the National Debt Redemption Movement.” [YONHAP]

Unesco has confirmed the registration to its Memory of the World list of Korean royal seals, an investiture book collection of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the archives of the National Debt Redemption movement from 1907 to 1910 and “Documents on Joseon Tongsinsa,” which consists of records of Korean envoys to Japan.

But documents concerning Japan’s wartime sexual slaves, euphemistically called “comfort women,” were not included.

Unesco said it has inscribed 78 items of documentary heritage from around the world into its Memory of the World program this year, after holding a four-day closed-door session in Paris last week.

According to the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA), the royal seal, known as eobo, and the investiture book collection, were recognized because “the seals and the book collection have been Korea’s continued tradition since the early years of Joseon for 570 years, while their content, calligraphic style, materials used and so on reflect the political, economical, social and cultural changes of the time.”

As for the archives of the National Debt Redemption movement from 1907 to 1910, the CHA said that it was acknowledged as a “memorable document” since about 2,470 documents included in this archive reveal “how nearly 25 percent of Koreans participated in a nationwide donation to redeem a foreign loan, showing the responsibility of the people.”

Among two more documents nominated by joint international civic groups, including the “Joseon Tongsinsa,” and the “Voices of the Comfort Women,” only the former made it to the program, as Unesco recommended that South Korea and Japan, which also submitted an entry related to comfort women, should create a joint submission for future nomination.

According to the Unesco’s International Advisory Committee (IAC), it endorsed the recommendations to Unesco Director General Irina Bokova, who has the final say, noting that “a dialogue among the nominators of the nominations ‘Voice of the Comfort Women’ and ‘Documentation on Comfort Women and Japanese Army discipline’ and concerned parties” is necessary. It added that the “IAC also recommends setting a place and time convenient to the parties for this dialogue, with a view to leading to a joint nomination to encompass as far as possible all relevant documents.”

These nominations came from a group of individual Japanese and U.S. non-governmental organizations and an international committee made up of 15 civic groups from eight countries, including Korea and China. Unesco changed the rules of its Memory of the World program during the meeting last week, in an attempt to prevent politically motivated applications such as the records of the Nanking Massacre and the Comfort Women. The new rules suspend the screening procedure if applications come from two or more parties who are in dispute about the facts. Though the new rules take effect next year, it seems the IAC decided to adopt the new policy in advance.

The decision angered the international committee that nominated the document, which held a press conference Tuesday afternoon in central Seoul, to express its regrets.

“We wanted the documents to be included on the list so that people across the world could understand the victims, rather than to criticize or diminish Japan,” said Han Hye-in of the International Committee. “We believe the new rule, that makes two different parties hold dialogue, was created to disturb the registration of ‘Voices of the Comfort Women’ and we are going to investigate the pressure Japan exerted on Unesco and inform the global community.”

BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [sharon@joongang.co.kr]
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