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UNESCO to list Korean records as ‘Memory of the World’

May 25, 2011 - 19:00 By Park Min-young
Two South Korean historical records are to be granted “Memory of the World” status by UNESCO.

Documents on the pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju on May 18, 1980, and Ilseongrok, a diary-style chronicle of late Joseon Dynasty’s kings’ daily lives, will be listed on the Memory of the World Register, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO on Tuesday. 
A photo included among documents related to the pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju on May 18, 1980. (Yonhap News)

“UNESCO’s International Advisory Committee held a meeting on Monday (local time) in Manchester, U.K., and discussed the registration of the documents. UNESCO did not make an official statement yet but the listing is likely,” said officials from the two bodies.

The documents related to the pro-democracy uprising in Gwangju include 4,271 volumes of government and police documents, court records, statements from civic organizations, news articles and over 3,000 photos and films. It is the first time that historical recordings from Korea’s modern era will be included on UNESCO’s list. 
Ilseongrok, a diary-style chronicle of the daily lives of kings of the late Joseon Dynasty. (Yonhap News)

“The registration of the documents means that its (Gwangju prodemocracy uprising) influence on other countries’ pro-democracy movements and its importance in world history have been recognized,” said Park Ha-young, an official at the Korean National Commission for UNESCO.

Ilseongrok contains records of Joseon kings’ lives from 1760 to 1910. It was first conceived by King Jeongjo, the 22nd king of Joseon, in 1760 as a private journal but was later expanded into records of state and national affairs. All 2,329 volumes of Ilsungrok remain in good condition and are housed in Kyujanggak Institute For Korean Studies at Seoul National University.

The Cultural Heritage Administration said that UNESCO recognized the international value of Ilseongrok as it records not only the history of the late Joseon Dynasty but also details of the 20th century cultural and political exchanges between Asia and the Western world.

When UNESCO makes the final decision, Korea will hold nine Memory of the World Registers, including the original manuscript of the Korean writing system, “Hunminjeongeum,” and “Joseonwangjosilok,” or the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty.

UNESCO’ s “Memory of the World” program was established in 1992 to protect the world’s valuable documents and records and widen public access to them through the Internet. A total of 193 documents from 83 countries are included on the list as of April.

By Park Min-young  (