Korea’s seven flagship mountain temples have newly made the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. The country now has 13 World Heritage sites in total by adding the seven temples three years after having Baekje Historic Areas enlisted in 2015.
The Cultural Heritage Administration said on Sunday, “UNESCO added ‘Korean mountain temples’ to the World Heritage list at the 42nd session of the World Heritage Committee, which took place in Manama, the capital of Bahrain on Friday.”
The World Heritage Committee said that the Korean mountain temples, which are general temples that constantly maintain the functions of Buddhist religion, ascetic practice and living until today since their establishment in the 7th through 9th Centuries, constitute “outstanding universal value (OUV),” which is an essential requirement for the World Cultural Heritage.
The Korean cultural agency and the Foreign Affairs Ministry staged aggressive campaigns to persuade the World Heritage Committee member states to reverse negative sentiment at the last minute. As a result, 20 countries including Spain among the 21 member states expressed support for listing of the seven Korean mountain temples. In the final vote, the 21 member countries unanimously voted for the concurrent enlisting of the seven temples.
The temples that have become new World Heritage sites are not only flagship heritages of Korean Buddhism but also places boasting of picturesque scenery and beautiful buildings. Buseok Temple famous for Murangsujeon (National Treasure No. 18) with its unique style pillars, is the temple Rev. Uisang of the Silla Dynasty founded in 676 A.D. after completing his study in China, and has been serving as the hub of Korean Buddhism’s Hwaeom Idea (based on earning and sharing with others). Tongdo Temple is famous as a Tesoro Temple where Buddha’s sarira is preserved. The temple is a jewel of Korean Buddhist heritage that is home to Daeungjeon (main temple) and Geumgang Steps, which are designated as National Treasure No. 290.
However, UNESCO has advised Korea to devise measures to manage buildings that have not been designated as cultural properties, and set comprehensive plans to repair and maintain them, and start preparation to handle growing tourists to those sites. The international organization has also requested Korea to consult with the World Heritage Center when building new structures within those temples.
Won-Mo Yu firstname.lastname@example.org