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Korea seeks UNESCO listing for ‘Arirang’ to thwart China’s claim

Korea plans to apply for a UNESCO designation for the national folksong “Arirang,” in all its regional forms, in the hope of making it intangible world heritage by the end of this year, Culture Minister Choung Byoung-gug said Thursday.

Choung’s comments came after China’s recent decision to list the song, as well as other cultural practices of ethnic Koreans living in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in Jilin Province, Northeast China, as their National Intangible Cultural Assets.

“‘Arirang’ sung by ethnic Koreans in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture is only one version of countless kinds of ‘Arirangs,’” Choung told reporters at a press conference held in Seoul.

“‘Arirang’ is Korea’s signature music that has distinct characteristics and musical differences by each region of the country,” he continued. “The fact that ‘Arirang’ is sung by ethnic Koreans in Yanbian proves that region (of China) is a property of Korean culture.”

The Korean government in 2008 filed an application for a UNESCO designation of ‘Jeongseon Arirang,’ the original form of the folksong, but decided to apply for all regional versions, he said. “We are collecting the different versions of ‘Arirang’ of different regions of Korea,” he said.

Choung said he does not plan to negotiate with China regarding UNESCO application for the song.

By Claire Lee (