World Heritage Sites and Culture in North Korea

By | October 6, 2021

The Korean art, as early as the Neolithic Stone (6000-2000 v. Chr.) Grasped by Pottery, received decisive impulses from China, as well as the Korean literature and Korean music. On the other hand, it influenced Japanese art. Barrows with partly well-preserved and detailed wall paintings in the interior date from the time of the North Korean Kingdom of Koguryŏ (37 BC – 668 AD). 30 burial sites in North Korea are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As in the South Korean empires of Silla and Paekche, artistically high-quality goldsmith and lacquer work was produced in Koguryŏ (Lacquer art). Bronze and iron casting has been known in Korea since pre-Christian times.

Typical of Korean culture is the strong presence of Buddhist art up to the time of the Koryŏ dynasty (918–1392). It is particularly visible in wooden pagodas and pavilions with carvings and curved roofs as well as Buddha sculptures made of clay, bronze or iron, for example in the temples of Pusŏksa and Seokguram. The world’s largest collection of Buddhist teaching is the Tripitaka Koreana (Tipitaka), completed in 1248 in Haeinsa Monastery, cut into more than 81,000 wooden printing blocks with Chinese characters. The capital of that time awaits with important buildings from the Koryŏ empire – palace, fortifications, city gates, bridges and royal tombs Kaesŏng up. Under the Koryŏ rulers, gray-green stoneware (celadon) and already porcelain with a blue-white glaze were produced in large numbers.

The cultural focus of the Chosŏn dynasty (from 1392) was further south of Korea. His “state ideology” was Confucianism. From this time z. B. the great palace complexes of Seoul. At that time, Korean landscape painting and literary painting developed their own powerful, dynamic style. King Sejong (1418–50) had a new syllabary for the Korean language developed: Hangŭl. However, this Korean script, initially consisting of 28 basic alphabetical characters, did not gain acceptance until the 19th century. Until then, the Chinese language and script prevailed in literature, which was mostly non-fiction. Korean-language fiction emerged from the 17th century. Colloquial language also found its way into narrative literature at the end of the 19th century. It was essentially based on realism, but later adopted other European forms as well. Short poems (Sijo) were an expression of popular poetry until the 19th century.

The personality cult around the Kim dynasty is particularly expressed in the capital Pyongyang with representative, sometimes bombastic buildings and monuments. That of the state founder Kim Il Sung A separate monument, the so-called Juche Tower, is dedicated to the “doctrine of independence” developed. On the other hand, the communist state fits into the tradition of the early Korean empires, especially the warlike Koguryŏ kings. Their testimonies, especially graves, are being restored and rebuilt. Korean traditions and the “revolutionary” history of North Korea are lavishly staged annually in the Arirang Festival, a precisely choreographed mass spectacle in Pyongyang. Arirang is the name of a popular Korean folk song. The subject of literature is often the partisan struggle against the Japanese occupation. Access to consumer goods from abroad and international information is possible for a privileged class. Fashions from South Korea and China are also spreading through the free markets.

World Heritage Sites in North Korea

World Heritage Sites

  • Tombs of the Koguryŏ Kingdom (2004)
  • Historic sites in Kaesong (2013)

Kaesŏng (World Heritage)

The total of twelve historical monuments represent a testimony to the history and culture of the Koryo dynasty, which lasted from the 10th to the 14th centuries. They show the splendor of the former capital Kaesŏng of the Koryo Empire. The remains of the palaces, fortifications, gates, schools, steles and an observatory exemplify the Asian architecture with Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist elements.

Kaesŏng: facts

Official title: Historic Sites of Kaesong
Cultural monument: Twelve plants from the time of the Korean Koryo dynasty from the 10th to the 14th centuries; Former capital of the Koryo Kingdom with palaces (Kyongdok Palace), fortifications, gates and an astronomical and meteorological observatory; important grave complexes, e.g. B. by Wang Geon, the founder of the Koryo dynasty
Continent: Asia
Country: North Korea
Location: Kaesŏng in the south of North Korea
Appointment: 2013
Meaning: Impressive testimony to the cultural and spiritual values ​​of an important age on the Korean peninsula; outstanding document of the transition from Buddhism to Neo-Confucianism in East Asia; exemplary Asian architecture with Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist elements

Kaesŏng (World Heritage)