The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) ratified the 2003 Convention in 2008 and several state agencies including the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Public Health and the Education Commission are among the competent bodies for identifying and safeguarding intangible cultural heritage. The National Authority for the Protection of Cultural Heritage (NAPCH) is the main implementing body within which a permanent department for intangible cultural heritage was established in 2012. In 2013, non-permanent national heritage protection committees were created at national, provincial and county levels. In terms of legislative development, the pre-existing law was revised, supplemented and re-enacted in August 2012 as the Law on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in order to reflect more closely the requirements of the 2003 Convention.
Kim Il Sung University and the University of Social Sciences provide training for specialists in management of intangible cultural heritage through their four- or five-year courses on folklore which include field training under guidance of practitioners and training in documenting methodology and development of software. The Academy of Koryo Medicine, the Academy of Social Sciences and the Mansudae Art Studio are among institutions that direct special attention to and support the continuous transmission of elements by the tradition bearers.
Documentation was previously carried out by the Korean Folklore Museum and the Academy of Social Sciences. Under the coordination of the NAPCH, the Korean Central History Museum, local history museums, the Academy of Social Sciences, the Academy of Koryo Medicine, the Cooks Association of Korea and other related institutions now undertake documentation of elements of intangible cultural heritage. The NAPCH provides guidance and ensures that documentation and updating of information are carried out on an annual basis by the institutions. Relevant bodies are encouraged to build up databases of elements of intangible cultural heritage, while respecting intellectual property rights including software right and copyright and the consent of communities, groups and individuals concerned. In addition, the setting-up of e-libraries at provincial capitals, educational institutions and industrial establishments is also encouraged and access to the databases of documentation institutions and libraries, including the Grand People’s Study House, is facilitated.
There are two types of inventories of intangible cultural heritage: the Inventory of National Intangible Cultural Heritage and a number of inventories of Local Intangible Cultural Heritage. While the former is managed by the NAPCH, the latter are managed by each local government. Hence, elements with similar characteristics may be included in more than one local inventory and also be in the national one. Inventorying is carried out more than once a year in close cooperation of the NAPCH and relevant local governments and entities. Following applications submitted to the NAPCH by institutions, enterprises, organizations and individuals, experts carry out field investigations of the element and the Non-permanent Intangible Cultural Heritage Deliberation Committee decide whether to include it in the inventory. Importance is given to the viability of the element as a living heritage and an entry must specify as key items governmental measures, roles played by communities, groups and individuals and other safeguarding measures. Updating is carried out at least every three years while NAPCH monitors the status and viability of inventoried elements at least twice a year. Identification, definition and inclusion of elements in the inventories are undertaken in close consultation with communities, groups and individuals concerned, with their prior and informed consent and widest possible participation. Information on inventory is accessible via dissemination networks including libraries and computer networks, which helps experts and the public in their academic or recreational activities.
The NAPCH develops and implements annual safeguarding plans for intangible cultural heritage. The key points of the 2014 plan were: improving the safeguarding mechanism at all levels; capacity-building of local experts in its management; capacity-building for transmission; and assistance for its promotion and dissemination in local areas. Scientific research is conducted by the Korean National Heritage Preservation Agency and the National Heritage Information Technology Exchange Agency in close cooperation with other scientific research institutions in many different social fields including education, culture and arts, sports, public health, national costume, traditional cuisine and handicrafts. Access to such research findings is restricted to respect customary rules governing access to specific aspects of an element and its use by others must be strictly based on the prior consent of communities concerned.
Raising awareness among the public in order to promote social interest and the widest possible participation of people is an important safeguarding objective. The media, as required by the aforementioned law, regularly introduces elements of intangible cultural heritage and the NAPCH promotes the presentation and dissemination of issues related to safeguarding, including its social and cultural functions and viability, through the media. The NAPCH also provides active assistance for organising exhibitions, festivals, shows and artistic performances, such as the ‘National Traditional Art Festival’, the ‘National Traditional Food Festival’, the ‘Traditional Costumes Show’ and the ‘Grand Bull Prize National Ssirum Contest’ held annually on the occasion of ‘Chusok’ (Harvest Moon Day). Experts including tradition bearers, practitioners, professors and researchers also deliver lectures on intangible cultural heritage at the Grand People’s Study House, other institutions and enterprises, and also online-lectures.
Educational programmes aimed at ensuring better understanding of intangible cultural heritage is provided in educational institutions at all levels, with relevant courses introduced into primary, junior and senior middle schools. In universities, teaching and research in folklore and history includes lectures on intangible cultural heritage in order to train experts in this heritage. Universities also integrate different aspects of related elements into their curricula, including their concept and origin, specification and transmission, social and cultural functions and safeguarding. Regional training courses are held for the general public at national and local levels while non-formal transmission is mostly carried out by tradition bearers. State authorities attempt to combine non-formal means of transmission with formal ones through involving research and educational institutions with individual experts at all levels.
All forms of media and educational programmes combine intangible cultural heritage with natural spaces and places of memories as the cultural spaces in which this heritage exists as a living heritage in order to protect both aspects. This is reinforced, for example, through traditional artistic performances in rural areas and in the biennial ‘April Spring People’s Art Festival’.
In terms of bilateral, sub-regional, regional and international cooperation, since its ratification of the 2003 Convention the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea hosted two rounds of capacity-building activities in 2009 and 2012 under UNESCO’s capacity-building strategy. These workshops marked an important occasion in promoting the safeguarding of intangible cultural heritage and building up experience and expertise in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for the effective implementation of the 2003 Convention.
The element Arirang folk song in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has been inscribed in November 2014 on the Representative List and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will have to report on it in its next report.