S. Korea to seek Confucian academies’ UNESCO heritage status again

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SEOUL, July 24 (Yonhap) — A group of nine ancient private Confucian academies in the country, called “Seowon” in Korean, will again try to gain registration as a UNESCO World Heritage early next year, an official at the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) here said Monday.

The decision was made a meeting of the CHA’s cultural assets committee earlier in the day, in which committee members have chosen Seowon again as a national candidate for UNESCO Heritage listing, the official said.

South Korea unsuccessfully applied for the registration in 2015, and voluntarily called off the application in April last year. In handing down a “return” judgment, the UNESCO International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) pointed out in its review that the Korean Confucian academies failed to show noticeable distinctive features in comparison with their Chinese and Japanese counterparts and that their surroundings were not included in cultural asset zones.

“In re-designating Seowon as a world heritage applicant, the committee has fully adopted ICOMOS recommendations for registration, and ordered local governments to complement systems to preserve their respective cultural assets,” the official said.

The administration plans to submit the Seowon application to the ICOMOS around January, and a final decision on the registration is likely to be made at an ICOMOS meeting in 2019, according to the official.

All set up during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), the nine academies are Sosu Seowon in Yeongju, Nangye Seowon in Hamyang, Oksan Seowon in Gyeongju, Dosan and Byeongsan Seowon in Andong, Dodong Seowon in Daegu, Pilam Seowon in Jangseong, Museong Seowon in Jeongeup, and Donam Seowon in Nonsan.

The academies are designed to honor renowned Confucian scholars as well as to educate youth. They were also key venues for discussing social and state affairs among local aristocrats during the Confucianism-dominated Joseon era.

From left are Byeongsan, Museong and Nangye Seowon. (Yonhap)

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