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North Korea’s Arirang wins UNESCO intangible heritage status

A group of North Korean versions of the traditional Korean folk song “Arirang” has been inscribed on UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list, the South Korean government said Thursday.

The inscription was made on Wednesday during the ninth session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which opened in Paris on Nov. 24 for a five-day run, Seoul’s Cultural Heritage Administration said.

“Arirang folk song in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea” became the first North Korean item on the Representative List of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. DPRK is the official name of North Korea.

“Arirang” is not just one song but a variety of local versions handed down generation after generation on the Korean Peninsula. It is often dubbed an “unofficial national anthem” of Korea because, due to its simple melody and tune, virtually all Koreans, even those living in North Korea and abroad, can sing at least part of it.

Experts say there are thousands of variations of “Arirang” carrying the refrain, “Arirang, arirang, arariyo.”

The new entry on the list includes six versions of “Arirang” that originated in Pyongyang, South Pyongan Province, South Hwanghae Province, Kangwon Province, South Hamgyong Province and Jagang Province in North Korea.

South Korea’s “Arirang” was added to the list under the title “Arirang, lyrical folk song in the Republic of Korea” in 2012.

The ongoing intergovernmental committee is also expected to decide whether to inscribe nongak, traditional Korean music performed by farmers, on the list as early as Thursday. (Yonhap)