We Koreans are deeply concerned about China’s bid to put Koguryo ruins including tomb murals in its territory on the World Heritage List since we have reasonable doubts on China’s political intention for the bid. We do not oppose the historical value of the remains or the application itself. We were so disappointed when North Korea’s bid for its Koguryo tomb murals in North Korea was put on hold in the 27th session of the World Heritage Committee by Chinese objection. Just a few years later, China is pushing its own bid on the similar Koguryo burial sites and murals in northeastern Chinese border cities. We can hardly believe that China has no other designs beyond the preservation and protection of the historic sites, which both North and South Koreans regard as their spiritual symbol as well as the origin of national identity. Koguryo heritage in northeastern China has not been paid any attention or proper care and has completely been abandoned until January, 2003 when China registered the application for Koguryo ruins including tomb murals in cities in Northeast Asia. China has been severely neglected the Koguryo burial sites in its territory for a long time. Several murals have been stolen since 1966, and from 1997 to 2002 tomb murals of the Koguryo Kingdom in Jian, China, were reportedly stolen by grave robbers. We question at this point: Why has China changed its attitudes dramatically? We point out that between the period of this series of China’s sudden attitude changes, there is the “Northeast Area Project,” a five-year government research program launched in 2002 which includes a several suspicious lines of distorting historical facts.
The Chinese have been insisting since 1993 that the histories of all ethnic groups within their current border as part of their national history. In February 2002, the NAP officially started to create its own definition of national history. This China’s self definition on national history has provided the ideological framework for China’s policies of merging of ethnic minorities from its cold years to the recent. Now China, in the NAP, is trying to expand the same framework to histories of all ethnic groups including two countries, North and South Korea, in Northeast Asia in order to strengthen its political influence in the area. According to the five recent papers on the issue in question released by the NAP, China focuses on proving the lack of continuity between Koguryo and the current States of the Korean peninsula. The arguments are summarized into two points: Koguryo originated from China’s tribe and current Koreans have no connection to the ancient kingdom.
What we concern is: first, there is a clear conspiracy in the project that China is trying to revise the history of Koguryo as its own, which is an obvious history distortion, based on not-proven its own theory. Secondly, all the events from China’s interference with North Korea’s bid to its own bid have deeply rooted in China’s history revision plan. What China pursues in the win of the bid is “successful claiming Koguryo,” not just for the preservation of the sites or reconstruction. We remind you that China’s possible history distortion is not merely a matter of a scientific dispute in Northeast Asia. It will seriously affect boundary and territorial disputes following the possible collapse of the North Korea.
We agree that the purpose of the World Heritage List is to protect cultural heritage for mankind as a whole and we don’t deny China’s right to bid for designation because although Koguryo’s remains have been the land of our ancestors, it is now in China’s territory. However, it is also true that Koguryo is the old kingdom of both North and South Koreans. It is not just a theory, but an acknowledged fact for centuries by historians. That’s why we also have a right to speak for the destiny of the ruins in China. Moreover, in this dispute between past and reality, we both may concur on one aspect: Koguryo’s heritage must be preserved and protected.
Thus, we call on you to defer your decision on China’s application until China, North and South Korea agree on proper terms to prevent China’s possible trial of history distortion or to give China a chance to clear the conspiracy. We again remind you that China’s winning the bid without any strict terms will provide China the best condition to “claim Koguryo,” which is just the beginning of further history distortion, and that may cause a great political chaos in Northeast Asia. The terms should include:
China must clearly specify Koguryo is an old kingdom of present Koreans in North and South Korea.
China must allow Korean scholars’ full access to the sites that is completely limited now. Until recently Korean scholars have kept being denied access to Koguryo ruins as well as a museum opened to the public. We have a right to pursue a research on the remains of our ancestors.
In the long term, it is worthwhile to pursue a joint research project among China, North and South Korea.
Secondly we call for the immediate adoption of strict and detailed plans to monitor China’s any trial of history distortion in the area under the supervision of multinational personnel.
Finally, we call on you to adopt a letter including North and South Korea, which are the two countries concerned with this issue, into members of the ICOMOS.
We appreciate China for its current efforts and interests in the symbol of our national identity, the Koguryo heritage sites. However, we also urge that China must stop further cultural assault on Koreans by trying to distorting our history. We know that the ICOMOS has been working so hard to preserve and protect the world heritage sites, and you deserve admiration from the world. We sincerely ask you to remind one more thing: the preservation and protection of the ancient ruins are not merely for the disappearing objects. Dear members of the Committee. Please remember that the purpose of the World Heritage List is also for the preservation and protection of the spirit itself buried in the objects. Koguryo ruins don’t speak, but we Koreans hear the voice from the past now.
Institute for Traditional Korean Cultural Studies (www.kookhakwon.org)
Alliance of Korean Citizens for True Korean History
From.Su Jung Yoon,seoul,Korea