Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 11.COM 10.B.8

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has nominated Ssirum (wrestling) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (No. 01160) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

In communities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, men would traditionally practise ssirum as a way of building their physical strength to do work. They would learn the practice at a young age from their father or grandfather, consolidate their skills with brothers or neighbours then develop their techniques at school and in competitions. Today the sport is still practised and transmitted in the same manner. The method varies according to region but generally consists of three different styles of wrestling moves using the torso, the hands or the legs. About 20 different skills are needed. The winner is he who pushes the opponent (or a part of his body above the ankle) on the ground first. Some ssirum contests are held on a large scale, such as the Grand Bull Prize National Ssirum Tournament, featuring famous wrestlers from throughout the country. Contests provide participants with an opportunity to not only demonstrate their skills but also represent the honour of their community. Ssirum is a practice that encourages trust, respect and understanding among communities to promote harmony. It has inspired oral traditions, works of art and performances of music and dance that have enriched the practice as an element of the country’s intangible cultural heritage.

  1. Decides that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria:

R.4:   The submitting State demonstrates the involvement of different stakeholders in the nomination process. The file presents letters expressing the free, prior and informed consent of representatives from national and regional institutions, social organizations, well-known practitioners, prize-winners and others;

R.5:   The file indicates that the element has been included since 2013 in the State Inventory of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This inclusion involved government institutions, social organizations and individual persons. This inventory is regularly updated by the National Authority for the Protection of Cultural Heritage.

  1. Further decides that the information included in the file is not sufficient to allow the Committee to determine whether the following criteria are satisfied:

R.1:   As a sport, ssirum promotes individuals well-being and has a social function of promoting the unity of communities. The information provided, however, does not sufficiently allow for a clear definition of the element, but rather describes a sporting practice (as opposed to a tradition with a specific cultural significance). Other than stating that ‘all Korean men’ are bearers and practitioners, the file does not sufficiently elaborate on the communities directly concerned and their responsibilities in transmitting the element, the main focus being on elite practitioners. Information concerning the involvement of women in the practice of the element is also lacking. In addition, the communities and groups concerned identified in Section C are not fully consistent with those listed under Criterion R.4;

R.2:   The submitting State needs to describe how inscription would contribute to the visibility of intangible cultural heritage in general at local, national and international levels rather than to the visibility of the element itself. Where mention is made of inscription fostering dialogue among communities, groups and individuals and the promotion of respect for cultural diversity and human creativity, the file needs to be more explicit as to precisely how inscription would contribute to these outcomes;

R.3:   National institutions have undertaken initiatives for promoting the element regarding dissemination, development, research and documentation of the element. The proposed safeguarding measures pertain mainly to documentation, education, and promotion, to be supported by governmental institutions and ssirum specialists. However, the file needs to provide further information on the involvement of local communities in the design and implementation of these measures. The gender aspect also needs to be considered. While a number of promotional activities to enhance the visibility of the element are described, the file does not sufficiently demonstrate anticipation of unintended results of inscription and how these would be mitigated.

  1. Decides to refer the nomination of Ssirum (wrestling) in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the submitting State and invites it to resubmit the nomination to the Committee for examination during a following cycle.