North Korea

Historic North Korean city wins heritage status

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 June, 2013, 5:25am

Royal tombs, fortress walls and a 700-year-old school in North Korea's medieval city of Kaesong are among a dozen monuments granted World Heritage status by Unesco at its annual meeting.

Twelve sites in the city, the heart of the Koryo dynasty that unified the Korean peninsula for the first time, were classified on the grounds of embodying "the political, cultural, philosophical and spiritual values" of the kingdom, Unesco said.

The Kaesong monuments - including sections of defensive walls - have survived repeated assaults on the city, which served as the seat of the Koryo kings who ruled from 918-1392.

They are several kilometres from an industrial park jointly run by the divided North and South that has been closed since April after tensions between the bitter enemies reached boiling point.

Hailing Kaesong's "outstanding universal value", Unesco said the monuments "are exceptional testimony to the unified Koryo civilisation as Buddhism gave way to neo-Confucianism in East Asia".

Thanking Unesco for the listing, a North Korean delegate hailed the "joyful occasion".

Kaesong was established in 919 as the capital of the Goryeo dynasty - also known as Koryo - which gave its name to the modern state of Korea.

The dynasty is credited with creating a unified national identity for the first time.

When the Korean peninsula was partitioned along the 38th parallel after the second world war, Kaesong was in South Korea.

During the 1950-53 Korean war, it came under North Korean control.