3 traditions added to UNESCO list
By Kim Rahn
Korea’s traditional martial arts, tightrope walking and ramie weaving have been listed as intangible heritages.
UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee inscribed the three Korean traditions in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at a session held in Bali, Indonesia, Monday.
With the new listing, South Korea has accumulated 14 intangible cultural heritages since 2001.
The three items were among six cultural traditions promoted by the Korean government for registration. The martial art, or “taekkyeon” in Korean, and the tightrope walking, or “jultagi,” were expected to be listed as they were recommended for registration at the stage of primary screening. The weaving of fine ramie from Hansan region, or “Hansan mosi,” was reserved at the beginning but included in the last minute.
The excluded three traditions were royal cuisine of the Joseon Kingdom, “seokjeondaeje,” or a Confucian ritual ceremony, and nacre craft.
Taekkyeon, the world’s first martial art to become the UNESCO-authorized intangible heritage, utilizes techniques with fluid, rhythmic dance-like movements to strike or trip up an opponent.
There are about 50 certified practitioners currently, and the Korean Taekkyeon Association plays a role in transmission of the martial art.
The committee decided that taekkyeon was qualified for registration because it is “a traditional martial art that has been passed from generation to generation and promotes cooperation and solidarity among its practitioners.” At the same time, the “inscription of taekkyeon on the Representative List could improve the visibility of similar martial arts around the world as an intangible cultural heritage,” it said.
Korea’s jultagi is different from tightrope walking performances in other countries in that it is accompanied by music and witty dialogue between the walker and another clown on the ground.
The tightrope walker presents acrobatic feats along with jokes, songs and dance, while the earthbound clown adds to the amusement by making witty remakrs.
The committee saw jultagi valuable as it is “a traditional performing art of great complexity that integrates musical, choreographic and symbolic expressions of Korean culture to delight and entertain audiences” and it is “a testimony of human creativity and its inscription on the Representative List could contribute to promoting intercultural exchange by drawing attention to the different types of tightrope walking worldwide.”
Hansan mosi is high-quality woven ramie clothing produced in Hansan in South Chungcheong Province, a favorite item in summer.
Weaving mosi, by female family members, requires a complicated process, including harvesting, boiling and bleaching ramie plants, spinning yarn out of ramie fiber, and waving it on a loom. The production, often done together with neighbors, also binds the community together, UNESCO said.