A survey of traditional techniques in South Korea: The second research exchange with the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, South Korea
As part of the second Research Exchange between Japan and South Korea in relation to the Safeguarding and Preservation of Intangible Cultural Heritage that took place last year, Migiwa IMAISHI of the Department of Intangible Cultural Heritage visited South Korea for a scheduled 2 weeks starting on June 12. In South Korea, the survey examined traditional Korean techniques and their preservation and conservation. The survey focused on techniques of bamboo work in the Damyang region of South Jeolla Province and techniques of sedge (“wangol”) handicrafts on Ganghwa Island, part of the City of Incheon.
Damyang is a major center for production of bamboo products, with almost all of its residents engaged in bamboo work. Five specialties, including the making of chaesang (bamboo boxes or baskets), the making of folding fans, and comb-making, have been designated as intangible cultural properties by the national or municipal government. The survey provided the opportunity to meet possessors (preservers) of cultural properties and ask about traditional techniques, changes in those techniques, and the current state of preservation of those techniques. The survey also helped to ascertain circumstances regarding cultural properties in the form of efforts by Damyang County to turn its “bamboo culture” into a tourist attraction and revitalize the local area (e.g. development of new bamboo products, the County’s own craftsmen support system, and management of bamboo-related facilities). The survey provided a glimpse into how cultural properties have been passed on in the past and how they may be passed on in the future. Preservation of traditional techniques differs in Japan and South Korea. In Japan, traditional techniques are preserved under two different systems: “intangible folk cultural properties” (folk techniques) and “intangible cultural properties” (craft techniques). In contrast, traditional techniques in South Korea are preserved under only one system: “intangible cultural properties” (craft techniques). Thus, techniques that fall under “intangible folk cultural properties,” i.e. techniques that are “indispensable to understanding changes in the Japanese people’s way of life” in Japan, are considered to be “intangible cultural properties” in South Korea, where they are valued as arts, skills, or techniques with “significant historical, artistic, or scholarly value.” These differences in the Japanese and Korean systems must have an impact on the perceptions of preservers of cultural properties and the general public and they might also impact techniques themselves. These varied impacts must be clearly discerned during future research exchanges.