Seoul City`s project to preserve Bukchon, a village replete with hanok (traditional Korean houses) has won a UNESCO heritage conservation award, city officials said yesterday.
The "Hanok Regeneration" project has been honored with an Award of Distinction in the 2009 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards.
"The project has brought about a striking change in people`s attitudes to the city`s residential quarters. The large-scale project has raised awareness about the heritage value of the hanok and preserved an important traditional Korean architectural legacy," UNESCO said in a press release.
Since 2001, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has carried out the project in the village that covers more than 1.07 million square meters in the heart of the capital.
The city has financially supported the renovation of 300 of the 1,022 houses in Bukchon. It has also bought 30 old houses and opened them to the public for cultural experience. Last December, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon vowed to preserve 4,500 hanok in Seoul with a budget of 370 billion won ($300 million) by 2018.
Located between the Gyeongbok and Changdeok palaces - key royal landmarks of the Joseon Dynasty, Bukchon was where relatives of the royal family and high-ranking public officials resided during the dynasty.
Most of the traditional houses have been remodeled to include renovated kitchens and bathrooms. But the basic structural features have been kept intact, offering a glimpse into the lifestyles of those who lived there centuries ago.
Since 2000, UNESCO has conferred the awards to recognize the achievement of individuals and organizations in successfully restoring structures of heritage value in the Asia-Pacific region.
By Song Sang-ho