Mayor of Gyeongju, South Korea (March 2013)
M. Choi Yang-sik
1. The city of Gyeongju was registered on the World Heritage City List in 2000. What has been the impact of this nomination for your city?
Gyeongju has three of World Heritage. First is Seokguram Grotto Temple and Bulguksa Temple. Seokguram Grotto Temple the greatest masterpiece of the golden age of Silla, is a heritage property in which architecture, mathematical principles, geometry, religion, and art are collectively realized through its design and construction. Bulguksa Temple is a prime exemplar depicting Buddhist beliefs through architecture, manifesting an unparalleled architectural beauty difficult to find even in Asia. In December 1995, Bulguksa Temple was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, together with Seokguram Grotto.
Another is Gyeongju Historical Sites. It contains Namsan, Wolseong, Daereungwon, Hwangnyongsa, Sanseong. Representatively, as home to numerous Buddhist relics, Mount Namsan is almost like an open-air museum, where the essence of Silla is vibrant and tangible. Relics and ruins include Najeong Well, a central feature in the birth legend of the kingdom; Poseokjeong Pavilion, the site where the Silla dynasty era came to an end; the seated stone Buddha at Mireuk Valley; the standing stone Buddhist Triad in Bae-ri; and the seated Buddha carved in relief on a stone pillar near Chilburam Hermitage.
The other is Yangdong Village. Yangdong Village is a Korean folk village designated as Important Folk Material, located along the Hyeongsan River 20 km northeast of Gyeongju. As a representative traditional Korean village built in the 14th-15th centuries, Yangdong Village readily preserves traditional architectural style within a setting and landscape that are in harmony with nature, reflecting the traditional Confucian philosophy of the Joseon era. In keeping with its status as a center of Joseon Confucian education, even today the village is an apt successor to the traditional Confucian culture and lifestyle.
After registration, domestic and overseas tourism were increase, which has a ripple effect on job creation and income. It also improve regional planning and management by increased government interest and support. Residents feel greater love for their home and give more importance to and take more responsibility for the preservation of the registered heritage.
2. In your opinion, what is the vital role of a mayor when a city has been inscribed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list?
In Gyeongju, many precious cultural assets are scattered all over the city besides of 3 World Heritage already mentioned above. And we have Oksan Seowon which is tentative world Heritage ‘Seowon, Confucian Academies of Korea’. Oksan Seowon built in 1573 is known for its unique building arrangement. The entire layout conforms to the strict formality of Confucian decorum, taking the geometric style, but its main buildings stand facing the west instead of the south, the direction usually favored by Koreans, considering the harmony with its surrounding area. Along with its original purpose for education, the academy still functions as a major venue for clan activities of the descendents of the sage revered here. Gyeongju gives a lot of effort for formal registration. I will promote the regionally scattered precious cultural assets to the world.
3. Concretely, what have been your actions toward the protection and enhancement of your heritage?
To protect heritage in our region, we runs cultural heritages management team, and we have secured a budget to promote and protect our heritages. Additionally, besides of OWHC, our city domestically joined World Heritage meeting and shares opinion with people from all walks of life.
4. Do you hold special events to enhance your city?
Gyeongju is the city of festivals. Many festivals are held in the city throughout the year. You can feel dynamic energy whenever you visit this sightseeing city. The representative festivals are The G.J. Rice Cake and Korean Traditional Drink Festival, Bonghwangdae Music Square , Bomun Outdoor Performance of Korean Classical Music , Silla Cultural Festival , Silla Moonlight Walking Marathon, Gyeongju Cherry Blossom Marathon and so on. Gyeongju is a city that every people can feel its attractions. Please visit this welcoming city.
5. This year, the city of Gyeongju will host the new regional secretariat of the OWHC. What do you expect this year for your region? In your opinion, what will be the impact for the OWHC?
Asia-Pacific Mayor’s Forum for World Heritage Cities was successfully held in Gyeongju last August. OWHC has 7 regional secretariats but there is no regional secretariat in Asia-pacific region, so their cohesion is weak. Gyeongju expressed that it wants to establish a new regional secretariat to expand network among Asia Pacific cities. Gyeongju will fulfill its role as a world leader.
In your opinion, what makes Gyeongju such a special place?
Located on the South-Eastern part of the Korean Peninsula, Gyeongju greets the sunrise earlier than other cities in Korea. As the capital city of the dynasty that achieved unification of the Korean Peninsula the first time in history, Gyeongju enjoyed its grand culture.
The citizens of Gyeongju take pride in Silla’s political and spiritual heritage : the Hwabaek system and the Hwarang spirit. We pledge to enhance our quality of life and transfer our great cultural heritage to future generations by jointly participating in the construction of a new upgraded city of culture and tourism.
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