DPR Korea: UN adds ancient city of Kaesong to its World Heritage list

Historic Monuments and Sites in the ancient city of Kaesong, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Photo: KCPC

23 June 2013 – The ancient city of Kaesong located in what is now the Democratic People's Republic of Korea has today been granted World Heritage status as the United Nations continues its review of dozens of natural and cultural wonders around the world.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee today approved the bid at its ongoing meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, noting the site embodied “the political, cultural, philosophical and spiritual values of a crucial era in the region's history.”

Kaesong city consists of 12 separate components ranging from palaces to an astronomical and meteorological observatory and defensive walls that integrate Buddhist, Confucian, Taoist and geomantic concepts. Taken together, these testify to the history and culture of the Koryo Dynasty, which ruled from 918 to 1392 and unified the various states which had inhabited the Peninsula, the Committee said.

The ancient city is the country's second World Heritage site after the Complex of Koguryo Tombs in Pyongyang, listed in 2004.

Also today, the Committee selected the ancient city of Tauric Chersonese founded by the Dorian Greeks in the 5th century BC on the northern shores of the Black Sea in Ukraine. The site encompasses six urban areas and hundreds of chora, rectangular plots of equal size, which the UN agency said is “an outstanding example of democratic land organization linked to an ancient polis.”

The choras supported vineyard cultivation. In the 3rd century AD, the city was the top wine producer of the Black Sea and served as a hub for the Greek, Roman and Byzantine Empires, and populations north of the Black Sea. The city thrived until the 15th century and is known as the “Ukrainian Pompeii.”

The towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum and their associated villas, preserved when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD in Italy, have been a World Heritage site since 1997.

Adding to Italy's World Heritage sites, the Committee today honoured the twelve villas and two pleasure gardens spread across the Tuscan countryside once belonging to the Medicis. The family greatly influenced modern European culture through its patronage. Built between the 15th and 17th centuries, the villas represent “an innovative system of rural construction in harmony with nature and dedicated to leisure, the arts and knowledge” and “form the first example of the connection between habitat, gardens, and the environment,” which helped develop the appreciation of landscape characteristic of Humanism and the Renaissance, the Committee said.

In Iran, the Committee honoured the Golestan Palace which “represents a new style incorporating traditional Persian arts and crafts and elements of 18th century architecture and technology.” The lavish structure is considered “a masterpiece” of the Qajar, whose family came into power in 1779 and made Tehran the capital of the country.

The Committee also selected for inclusion the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, a park in Kessel, Germany, begun by Landgrave Carl of Hesse-Kassel in 1689.

“The great size of the park and its waterworks along with the towering Hercules statue constitute an expression of the ideals of absolutist Monarchy while the ensemble is a remarkable testimony to the aesthetics of the Baroque and Romantic periods,” UNESCO had said in approving its bid.

The UN agency also approved an extension today of the Bochnia Royal Salt Mines to the Polish Wieliczka Salt Mines inscribed to the World Heritage List in 1978, creating the Wieliczka and Bochnia Royal Salt Mines. The rock salt deposit in Wieliczka-Bochnia has been mined since the 13th century and is the oldest of its type in Europe. The site includes altars and statues sculpted in the salt, making what the Committee called “a fascinating pilgrimage into the past of a major industrial undertaking that developed over 700 years.”

The Committee, meeting since 16 June in Cambodia, is reviewing 32 proposed sites and reviewing several already on the list. It is due to wrap up its work this week.


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