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North Korea Ancient Ruins

Ancient Ruins of North Korea’s Old Capital Joins World Heritage List


The remains of an ancient capital of Korea’s Koryo Dynasty, located on the northern side close to the border with South Korea has joined UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The old capital, known as Kaesong, ruled a united Korea between 918 and 1392. It is also the location of the joint factory park that was recently closed as a result of tensions between the two nations.

North Korea’s bid to have the site added to the World Heritage List was approved last Sunday at a UNESCO meeting in Cambodia, which also saw the addition of 13 other sites including Mount Etna in Italy, Mount Fuji in Japan, and the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces in China.

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value.  Kaesong is said to have met this criteria as it consists of 12 separate sites, which together testify to the history and culture of the Koryo Dynasty from the 10th to 14th centuries. The sites include the ruins of the Manwoldae palace, a 1,000-year-old academy which was the top school during that era, an observatory, commemorative steles, and the mausoleum of King Kongmin.

UNESCO has stated that: “the geomantic layout of the former capital city of Kaesong, its palaces, institutions and tomb complex, defensive walls and gates embody the political, cultural, philosophical and spiritual values of a crucial era in the region’s history.”  It also reflects the transition from Buddhism to neo-Confucianism in East Asia. 

‘These valuable cultural relics are the pride of our nation and they are precious cultural relics that show the long history of our nation,’ Kim Jin Sok, a researcher at Kaesong City Management Office for Preserving National Heritage said.

This is the second entry on the World Heritage List for North Korea, after the complex of ancient tombs in Pyonyang won heritage status in 2004.

It is unknown whether the new heritage status will do anything to encourage visitors to the troubled and domineering nation which has caused world-wide concern due to its heightened aggression and threats of war against South Korea and the United States. 

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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