In recent news, the ‘Nine Seowon’ Confucian academies from the Joseon era have been officially put on the UNESCO World Heritage list, according to Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA).
The Seowon were active spaces designed as libraries, publishing houses and venues for discussing social and political matters and honouring renowned Confucian scholars.
Today, the academies located in various provinces around the country are preserved as state-designated cultural properties of Korea. The UNESCO committee recognized the “outstanding universal value” of the Seowon and commented on its individual characteristics that “maximize the link to the surrounding environment and [promote] Confucian ideals,” during a live-streamed UNESCO meeting.
For the head of the CHA, Chung Jae-Suk, the nomination of Seowan was both a challenge and opportunity for the Republic of Korea. After facing rejection in the 2016 evaluation, the CHA received advice in preparing the second nomination and finally succeeded. Chung Jae-Suk stated that “through dialogues with the advisory body, the local experts could more clearly understand the crucial concept of World Heritage and the nomination process”.
The World Heritage Committee recommended that the South Korean government should create a preservation plan for the nine academies, to which the CHA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they plan to work towards with the country’s regional governments.