Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 17.COM 7.B.22

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Republic of Korea has nominated Talchum, mask dance drama in the Republic of Korea (No. 01742) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Talchum is a performing art that encompasses dance, music and theatre. An ensemble of six to ten musicians accompanies masked performers who humorously explore social issues through dramatic combinations of songs, dances, movements and dialogue. The practice uses caricatures of everyday characters to convey its underlying appeal to universal equality and criticism of social hierarchy. Talchum performances do not require a formal stage: any empty space can become a venue. The audience plays an essential role, contributing to the production with their cheers and jeers as the drama unfolds. This interaction with audiences and the focus on social criticism contributed to Talchum's large-scale transmission in the 1970s and 1980s among young people, particularly university students. This generation continues to play a critical role in the transmission of the practice, passing on the related knowledge and skills of Talchum performance and mask-making to younger generations through local associations, clubs, camps and public schools. Initially performed by men, the practice now includes women. In addition to serving as a tool for social commentary, Talchum can promote and reinforce local cultural identities through the inclusion of local dialects and folksongs. Talchum mask dance dramas are also an important part of local festivals.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   Talchum is manifested through the oral traditions, performing arts, social practices and rituals of its dances, music and theatre and the traditional craftsmanship associated with crafting the masks. The bearers and practitioners of the element include individual practitioners who are affiliated with safeguarding associations. The skills related to the dances, songs, dialogue and crafting are transmitted through the practitioners and the safeguarding associations. The broader general public can be involved by learning talchum at public educational institutions and practising it as a pastime. Both men and women can actively participate in the practice and transmission of the element. The themes of talchum highlight values of universal equality and criticisms of rigid social hierarchy, which remain relevant today. Talchum serves as a defining symbol of cultural identity for the local areas where it is practised.

R.2:   The nomination file highlights that inscription of the element will increase the visibility and raise awareness of intangible cultural heritage in general at the local, national and international levels. In addition, it will be an opportunity to introduce and explain the 2003 Convention and its objectives in the performance pamphlets and promotional and transmission activities that will be shared with local communities. Nationally, inscription of the element will enhance awareness among the people of the Republic of Korea about the importance of intangible cultural heritage and boost national interest in intangible cultural heritage. Internationally, inscription will foster global interest in intangible cultural heritage involving mask traditions, contributing to greater visibility and awareness of intangible cultural heritage in general.

R.3:   The nomination file explains that the communities' past and current safeguarding measures are carried out through 18 officially recognized talchum safeguarding associations, and that documentation was carried out by researchers. There are also efforts to promote the element through regular performances and the organization of the Youth Mask Dance Festival. The State Party supports these efforts financially as well as through promotion, education, capacity-building workshops and documentation. The proposed safeguarding measures include establishing an International Mask Culture Archive, exchange programmes, events and other safeguarding efforts that will be implemented by the International Mask Arts and Culture Organization. The General Federation of Mask Dance Safeguarding Associations will play a critical role in the safeguarding and transmission of talchum following its inscription. Practitioners will also play a leading role in implementing these proposed safeguarding measures.

R.4:   The file demonstrates how the communities, groups and individuals concerned have actively participated in the nomination process since the Cultural Heritage Administration announced a call for candidates for nomination in 2019. Nine different intangible cultural heritage elements were identified and the talchum masked-dance drama was selected as the most suitable candidate after careful deliberation by intangible cultural heritage experts. Since that time, the Cultural Heritage Administration and representatives of the communities have actively cooperated in the nomination process. The nomination dossier was drawn up and modified based on consultation with the communities and stakeholders. Safeguarding associations, the General Federation of Mask Dance Safeguarding Associations and the International Mask Arts and Culture Organization have all closely cooperated throughout the entire nomination process from the initial agreement on the need for inscription to the preparation of the nomination file and drawing up of future safeguarding measures. Various letters of consent were submitted, demonstrating the communities' consent for the nomination of the element.

R.5:   The element is included on the National Intangible Cultural Heritage List, which is maintained by the Intangible Cultural Heritage Division of the Cultural Heritage Administration. The element is also included on various provincial-level inventories. The identification of elements for the inventories involves communities, groups and individuals who practise a particular intangible cultural heritage element or researchers who study and survey the element. The national and provincial intangible cultural heritage inventories are updated through periodic surveys every five years, as mandated by the Act on the Safeguarding and Promotion of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

  1. Decides to inscribe Talchum, mask dance drama in the Republic of Korea on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;
  2. Commends the State Party on the preparation of a well-elaborated file that clearly explains the social functions and cultural meanings of the element and describes ongoing efforts to address the risks of over-commercialization.