Korean talchum mask dance is latest Unesco intangible cultural heritage
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Korea’s talchum, or mask dance, became the country’s 22nd item to make it on Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List after a decision during Unesco’s Inter-Governmental Committee in Morocco on Wednesday.
“I am delighted that the decision has been made to inscribe Korea's Mask Dance Drama [talchum] on the representative list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. I also thank you for your strong support and concerns during the process leading up to this successful outcome,” said Choi Eung-chon, chief of the Cultural Heritage Administration, in his speech of appreciation. Together with Choi, different masks from different parts of Korea traveled to Morocco in celebration of the listing.
“As head of a government agency responsible for the preservation of Korea's cultural heritage, I feel an added sense of responsibility to protect our Intangible Cultural Heritage as Korea's Mask Dance Drama has now become part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the world.”
Choi said Korea will “continue to cooperate with the international community to produce the best results for Intangible Cultural Heritage of the world in the spirit of Unesco’s Convention on Intangible Cultural Heritage.”
Talchum is a form of art that consists of dance, music and theatrical performance, complete with an audience that takes part by reacting loudly to the show with cheers and jeers as the drama unfolds. In the country’s pre-modern age, it was often a way through which ordinary citizens in Korea could vent their dissatisfaction at society's inequalities and injustices.
The Korean government began to officially recognize the artform as an intangible cultural heritage when Yangju byeolsandae nori, a form of mask dancing originating from the city in Gyeonggi, was inscribed as a national intangible cultural heritage in 1964. A total of 13 forms of talchum have since been inscribed as national intangible cultural heritages. Some of the actual masks are also Korea’s state-designated national treasures.
Thirteen pieces of Hahoe Mask and Byeongsan Mask of Andong dating back to late Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) represent different social statuses — from a nobleman, a monk and a scholar to a butcher, a servant and a granny. It was only through these plays that the commoners, hidden behind the masks, could satirize the lives of the noblemen and poke fun at the injustices in society, especially during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).
North Korea’s Pyongyang Raengmyong was also listed the same day. This cold noodle dish originating from Pyongyang uses thicker noodles made of buckwheat and is also popular among South Koreans.
Just last week, three more of Korea’s important documents were listed on Unesco’s Memory of the World Asia Pacific Regional Register (Mowcap).
The first, Naebang-gasa: Song of the Inner Chambers, is a collection of 348 songs created, recited and recorded by Korean women from 1797 to the late 1960s. This collection of songs is important in that it’s a rare testimony to Korean women’s independent activities from the 18th to mid-20th centuries.
Taean Oil Spill Experiences: The Narrative of the Incident and Recovery, documents the tragic oil spill after a tanker collision off the coast of Taean on Dec. 7, 2007, and its recovery. The impact was severe, but 1.23 million people rushing to the area to volunteer to clean up the ocean was also unprecedented.
Finally, Samgukyusa, or the Memorabilia of the Three Kingdoms, made the list. It’s a book on ancient mythology, folkways, institutions, religion, life and literature in Korea, written from 1281 to 1285 by the Buddhist monk Ilyeon in the aftermath of the Mongol invasions of Korea (1231-70).
Korea has three more items listed on the register: Name Boards and Verse Plaques on Royal Architecture of the Joseon Dynasty, Maninso: Ten Thousand People’s Petitions, and Pyeon-aek: Hanging Wooden Plaques in Korea.
BY YIM SEUNG-HYE [email@example.com]
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