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Heritage administration to examine ways to protect cultural properties

Commemorating the fourth anniversary of the Namdaemun gate arson, the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea this week is holding two events examining better ways to protect cultural properties from natural and man-made disasters.

On Thursday, the administration is holding a special session titled “International Symposium 2012 on Disaster Risk Management for Cultural Heritage: Cultural Heritage and Climate Change,” where local and foreign pundits will gather at the National Palace Museum of Korea to exchange opinions.

“Right now Korea’s cultural properties are starting to experience damage by insects and air pollution,” an official of the administration told The Korea Herald. “So the local scholars will be talking about the current problems and possible measures to protect the properties in Korea, while invited foreign experts will bring an international perspective.”
Police officers guard ruins of Namdaemun, a historic gate in Seoul that was severely damaged by arson in 2008. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Police officers guard ruins of Namdaemun, a historic gate in Seoul that was severely damaged by arson in 2008. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

American professor Diane Douglas, one of the two international speakers at the event, is a climatologist with expertise in hazard risk reduction planning and cultural heritage management. She will be talking about how climate change can negatively affect cultural properties worldwide, and possible measures to minimize the risk and damage.

Meanwhile, professor Ishizaki Takeshi, who currently teaches at the department of conservation at Tokyo University of the Arts, will be talking about damage to cultural heritage in Asia.

Professor Seo Jung-ho of Kongju University will talk about measures to protect stone-made cultural properties from possible disasters resulting from climate change, while Lee Dong-heup from Korea Forest Research Institute will speak about a number of cases where local wooden cultural properties have been damaged by insects.

On Friday, which marks four years since the Namdaemun arson incident, the administration will hold a special fire-fighting demonstration session at Changgyeonggung in Seoul, along with Seoul’s major fire stations, including the Jongno and Hyehwa branches.

Every municipal government in Korea will also be participating in a month of fire-fighting training and safety inspection sessions at about 170 major cultural heritage sites located nationwide, the administration said.

“The Cultural Heritage Administration hopes to raise awareness on safety issues of our cultural properties through these events,” the official said. “We hope to continue developing solid measures to protect our heritage, while networking with more foreign experts on the matter.”

By Claire Lee (