The KNCU is committed to programmes that safeguard and raise awareness of UNESCO Heritage – World Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Memory of the World – as well as fostering cultural diversity and creativity in order to contribute to a more tolerant and diverse society.
Uncovering and appreciating the unique value of heritage and the wealth of stories connected to it, while also interpreting this information in an appropriate fashion, is as important as registering and preserving the heritage. The KNCU works to promote a better understanding and sharing of heritage through studies and international meetings, with the aims of upholding South Korea’s duties and responsibilities as a State Party to the World Heritage Convention, and as a member of the World Heritage Committee.
UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage programme helps communities maintain and celebrate their identity, protecting the world’s cultural diversity by preserving features that can easily be lost because they are intangible. The programme is based on the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which provides a framework that helps States Parties to preserve intangible heritage and pass it on to the next generation. The KNCU is committed to effective implementation of the Convention and works with the Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre for Asia and the Pacific (ICHCAP), a UNESCO Category II Centre in South Korea, and non-governmental organizations under the auspices of the Convention, arranging and participating in relevant international forums and contributing to capacity-building and awareness-raising efforts.
The KNCU implements a wide array of activities, both within the Republic of Korea and abroad, in relation to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme (which aims to promote preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage), working together with the International Centre for Documentary Heritage (ICDH, a UNESCO Category II Centre), the Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific (MOWCAP), and other related organizations. These activities aim to raise awareness of documentary heritage and the need to preserve it, while also providing practical advice on how to achieve this. The KNCU also promotes wider participation of developing countries in the Memory of the World Programme by providing capacity-building consultation on the application process for the Memory of the World Register to developing states that wish their heritage to be included on the Register.
In cooperation with the web portal Naver, the KNCU translates introductions to UNESCO-registered heritage (World Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Memory of the World) into Korean. The information is made available on KNCU’s ‘UNESCO and Heritage’ website and on the Naver Knowledge Encyclopedia website). KNCU also provides an on-line ‘Heritage Map of Korea’ to raise awareness about heritage among the general public in South Korea.KNCU’s ‘UNESCO and Heritage’ website
The ‘Nubia Campaign’, an international campaign launched in 1959 to save remains of ancient Nubia in Egypt from being flooded, was the starting point for establishing the 1972 Convention. About $80 million was raised from UNESCO member states to fund the cost of the two-decade-long campaign to move and restore the Nubian monuments. The campaign accentuated the need to establish a mechanism to protect important heritage of humanity, which resulted in the adoption of the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (the World Heritage Convention) at the General Conference of UNESCO in November 1972. Under the World Heritage Convention, heritage of outstanding universal value is divided into three categories – natural, cultural and mixed properties – to be conserved as UNESCO World Heritage. States Parties to the Convention help by participating in advisory bodies to the Convention – the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) – that monitor endangered World Heritage sites and identify effective approaches to safeguarding them, while also providing training and other programmes designed to increase the general public’s understanding of the importance of protecting World Heritage.
The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference on October 17, 2003 and was the first international convention concerned specifically with Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Convention defines Intangible Cultural Heritage as the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge and skills – as well as associated instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. The categories that make up Intangible Cultural Heritage include:
The purpose of the Convention is to raise awareness of the importance of Intangible Cultural Heritage as a source of cultural diversity, as well as to provide national and international assistance to safeguard it. To that end, UNESCO manages a Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and a List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding while periodically selecting projects and activities for the safeguarding of heritage which best reflect the principles and objectives specified in the Convention.
In 1992 UNESCO launched the Memory of the World (MOW) Programme, which aims to preserve documentary heritage of world significance to that it can be passed down to the next generation as a symbol of the collective memory of humanity. The MOW Programme also works to enable wider access to this documentary heritage. In 1995, UNESCO adopted the General Guidelines to Safeguard Documentary Heritage, which stipulate the official, specific application and selection guidelines for inclusion in the Memory of the World Register while also explaining the structure and management of the Memory of the World Programme. The General Guidelines to Safeguard Documentary Heritage serve as a foundation for the growth of the Memory of the World Programme as they not only provide specific guidelines on implementation, but also present comprehensive guidelines on how to preserve precious documentary heritage, and how to increase awareness of, and accessibility to this heritage.
The KNCU participates in international forums organized to implement the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. The KNCU also cooperates with relevant government ministries, including the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, to ensure that the Convention is implemented effectively at the domestic level. It translates materials from UNESCO headquarters and publishes them in Korean for the domestic audience. It also organizes capacity-building workshops that bring together experts in culture from around the Asia-Pacific region, helping them better understand issues related to the diversity of cultural expressions.
The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) is a network of cities that pursue sustainable urban development by utilizing their own cultural assets and creativity. The KNCU helps South Korean cities become members of the UCCN, and has also put together a domestic network of the cities in South Korea that have been designated as UNESCO Creative Cities, hosting workshops once a year to promote information sharing and networking among the cities that have already joined the UCCN and others aspiring to join it. A total of eleven Creative Cities in Korea – Seoul (Design), Incheon (Crafts and Folk Arts), Jeonju (Gastronomy), Gwangju (Media Arts), Busan (Film), Tongyeong (Music), Bucheon (Literature), Daegu (Music), Wonju (Literature), Jinju (Crafts and Folk Arts), and Gimhae (Crafts and Folk Arts) – are affiliated with the Network.
The KNCU conducts cultural capacity-building projects as part of domestic and international cooperation among cities that are members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. These projects promote cultural diversity and sustainable development by providing various opportunities to people who lack access to cultural experiences for a variety of reasons, including the effects of economic difficulties, climate change, natural disasters and the spread of infectious diseases.
The Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions has played a significant role by recognizing the distinctive nature of cultural goods -- different from mere commodities bought and sold in the market -- and the sovereign right of States to implement cultural policies since it was adopted in October 2005 during UNESCO’s 33rd General Conference. In line with the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity of 2001 and its action plans, the 2005 Convention emphasizes the need to take culture into account more carefully at all times because it directly affects community identity and individual human rights.
The idea of “creative cities” first emerged when countries facing a post-industrial decline in their manufacturing sectors and subsequent massive layoffs were searching for alternative growth engines in the late 1980s. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) officially started in October 2004 as part of international cooperative efforts to promote cultural diversity with the objective of fostering industries based on cultural assets and creativity, ultimately contributing to sustainable urban development. New members of the UCCN are announced every two years, with the network covering seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Arts, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. The UCCN consists of 295 members from more than 80 countries as of February 2022.
The KNCU works in close cooperation with culture-related departments at UNESCO’s Paris-based Headquarters and UNESCO Field Offices, in particular the UNESCO Offices in Beijing and Bangkok. The KNCU also works with UNESCO Category II Centres in the cultural field, in particular the International Research Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region, located in Japan, and the International Center for Documentary Heritage, located in the Republic of Korea.
The KNCU collaborates with domestic and international experts in culture, and expert groups specializing in UNESCO’s cultural initiatives, to share information. It maintains partnership relations with the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the International Council of Museums (ICOM), and the UNESCO Memory of the World Committee for Asia and the Pacific (MOWCAP), among other organizations.
The opinions of non-governmental organizations are taken very seriously by UNESCO in the field of culture. The KNCU makes efforts to work with a diverse range of civil society organizations in the cultural field, including collaborations with non-governmental groups from South Korea and abroad on research projects to preserve and develop World Heritage, Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Memory of the World, and publication of the outcomes of these projects.
The KNCU maintains cooperative relations with South Korea’s government ministries responsible for policies on UNESCO Heritage and cultural diversity issues, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the Cultural Heritage Administration. The KNCU also maintains contact with the local governments involved in UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network as well as local authorities involved in the management of UNESCO Heritage sites in South Korea.