“Kimjang: Making and Sharing Kimchi” Makes UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

“Kimjang: Making and Sharing Kimchi in the Republic of Korea” made UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at the eighth session of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Baku, Azerbaijan, from December 2 through 7. 

The ROK government sent to the meeting a delegation consisting of officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Cultural Heritage Administration, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, the Permanent Delegation to UNESCO and the Embassy in Azerbaijan. 

With the inscription of Kimjang, the number of Korea’s intangible cultural assets on the UNESCO list comes to 16, which includes Arirang (lyrical folk song inscribed in 2012), Ganggangsullae (a seasonal harvest and fertility ritual inscribed in 2009), Pansori (narrative vocal music inscribed in 2008) and Jongmyo Jerye and Jongmyo Jeryeak (royal ancestral ritual and music at the Jongmyo shrine inscribed in 2008). 

In their deliberation on Kimjang, the 24 member states of the Intergovernmental Committee took note of the following characteristics of Kimjang, a household tradition transmitted from one generation to the next: It symbolizes the spirit of sharing and the communal culture of Koreans in preparing for winter; and it helps enhance the solidarity among community members, thereby giving them a sense of identity and belonging as Koreans. 

According to a survey conducted by the Cultural Heritage Administration in February 2012, some 90% of Koreans make Kimchi themselves or participate in Kimjang. The fact that the community voluntarily hands down the Kimjang culture appears to have played a role in the decision to register Kimjang as UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage. 

The Foreign Ministry and the Cultural Heritage Administration have made multi-faceted efforts to have “Kimjang,” one of the most significant aspects of Korea’s food culture, included in the list. The inscription of Kimjang, for its part, is seen to have helped enhance the ROK’s image as a “culture country.” 

The government, having set “cultural enrichment” as one of its policy priorities, is expediting work to usher in an era of happiness for the global community. As part of such efforts, the Foreign Ministry and the Cultural Heritage Administration will continue work to have more Korean intangible cultural assets included in the UNESCO list with a view to increasing the international awareness of Korean culture and helping promote cultural diversity and the creativity of mankind. 

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