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The widespread outbreak of COVID-19 is changing the landscape of Korea’s ICH sector

República de Corea
Haeree Shim / ICHCAP (International Information and Networking Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in the Asia-Pacific Region under the auspices of UNESCO

Although various intangible heritage events and education programs have been canceled, many other projects have been converted into online projects and have begun to pioneer new grounds for the safeguarding and promotion of intangible heritage.

Since the end of April, the National Intangible Heritage Center has been conducting its educational curriculum for new intangible heritage trainees through online classes, whereas it had previously taken place in person.

Educational videos for trainees consist of four 25-minute videos each in a total of 15 subjects, where new trainees are required to watch all of the educational videos and submit their impressions and questions to the instructor.

The official in charge of the project at the National Intangible Heritage Center, Kim Myeong-hyeon, stated “online education allows revision and editing, which is advantageous in that it is possible to deliver more refined content to the practitioners.”

The process of converting the education program into an online format has also broadened interactions with the public. The National Intangible Heritage Center has launched a program for select intangible heritage practitioners involved in the 15 subjects to engage the public in discussions, which can be viewed on the Cultural Heritage Administration YouTube channel by the general public as well as trainees.

In addition, the National Intangible Heritage Center has also uploaded videos of various intangible heritage performances to date on its website for the benefit of those who are unable to attend performance venues in person due to COVID-19.

The National Gugak (Korean classical music) Center has also canceled most of its scheduled gugak performances due to the outbreak of COVID-19. Instead, it has been uploading a series of videos titled “Daily Gugak” on its YouTube channel to allow the public to view one recording of gugak performance every morning.

Some major performances, including “Friday Concerts,” are taking place without an audience and being released online to the public as live streams on the National Gugak Center’s YouTube channel and TV sections of web portal sites.

The National Gugak Museum under the National Gugak Center has reopened since May 6, allowing visitors to reserve their ticket in advance online and enter the museum under the condition of cooperating with infection prevention measures, such as wearing masks and identity verification.

The museum announced that it would allow the entrance of up to 300 visitors per day, with up to 30 simultaneous visitors at any given time. The National Gugak Center has stated that the 40th Onnara Gugak Competition will take place as scheduled from early July. While several projects have also been postponed or canceled in the private sector, it has also seen the launch of a number of new programs.

The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism has postponed Buddha’s Birthday, a Buddhist cultural event celebrated in Korea, by a month, but it has also led a month-long prayer vigil for recovery and healing in the wake of COVID-19, while the related event of the Lotus Lantern Festival has been canceled.

This is the first time in which the Lotus Lantern Festival, designated as National Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 122, has been directly canceled by the Buddhist sector. In late May each year, representative shamans of the Yeongnam and Honam regions gather together to hold the national ancestral rite of Giyangje, which aims to ward off disasters and wish for good fortune.

This year, the shamans plan to wish for the swift eradication of COVID-19 and to deliver a message of hope to the public.
Giyangje will be live streamed on the YouTube channel.

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