[Cultural Policy Bulletin Vol.4] Open-Mindedness and Tolerance of 1,000-Year-Old GyeongGi’s Culture

With Ahn Byung Woo, Chairman of the Council of Inter-Korea Historian Association

Reporter Kim Sunghwan(KIM) The year 2018 marks the GyeongGi Millennium of the launch of the capital administration system. The year is all the more meaningful because it also marks the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Goryeo. Why is the GyeongGi Millennium and the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Goryeo important?


Interviewee Ahn Byung Woo (AHN) The year 2018 marks the GyeongGi Millennium of the launch of the GyeongGi administration system during the Goryeo period. The year is all the more meaningful because it also marks the 1,100th anniversary of the founding of Goryeo; the kingdom overcame the Korean Peninsula’s first division and reunified it. During the 9th year of King Hyeonjong, the kingdom was divided into five circuits and two boundary regions so it has also been a thousand years since the Korean Peninsula established its provincial system composed of provinces such as Gyeongsang-do and Jeolla-do. During the Goryeo period, today’s GyeongGi-do Province wasn’t a province but it was a special area surrounding the capital Gaegyeong and was called GyeongGi. It was also at that time that most of GyeongGi Province’s towns were named. Such towns include Yangju, Gwangju, Suwon and other big towns.


Why are we celebrating the GyeongGi Millennium of GyeongGi? That is because it has been as long as a thousand years since the Korean Peninsula had the name GyeongGi. It is thus the naming of the province that we are celebrating. The name GyeongGi literally means the capital and its surrounding area. The GyeongGi area was thus regarded as very important because it protected the capital. On the administrative front, GyeongGi was neither the capital nor a local area. However, the GyeongGi area directly supplied products that are needed by the capital. The area also formed an economic basis for political leaders living in the capital. Consequently, the GyeognGi area had their farms, villas, living spaces and tombs, thus forming their unique culture.


GyeongGi came to be called GyeongGi-do Province during the late Goryeo period. After the founding of Joseon, the kingdom ran a capital area system focused on Seoul. Most of today’s cities in GyeongGi-do Province used to be the towns that came to belong to GyeongGi during the early Joseon period. Since land was provided for civil servants, the GyeongGi area greatly expanded from the one in Goryeo.


GyeongGi-do Province is located in an area that is supposed to protect Seoul. The province is thus located between Seoul and other local areas. In other words, you need to pass through GyeongGi-do Province whenever you move from Seoul to other Korean towns. Consequently, the entire kingdom’s material and human resources passed through GyeongGi-do Province to reach Seoul. GyeongGi-do Province’s towns naturally served as centers of transport, trade and products, thus leading to the development of academic research and commerce. Under these circumstances, an academic movement called the Giho School was created. Scholars such as Yi I, Jeong Yakyong and Yi Ik were active in that era. In this way, the GyeongGi area’s own unique culture was formed.


GyeongGi-do Province was composed of numerous old towns. Each of these towns has its own tradition and culture. At the time when Goryeo was founded, Gaegyeong became its capital. Afterward, small towns that used be in Silla’s border area grew into towns at the heart of the kingdom. In this process, while these towns maintained their own tradition and culture, they also showed flexibility in absorbing new cultures in the vicinity of the capital, thus creating new cultures in a dynamic way.


In that sense, the GyeongGi Millennium beyond the anniversary of naming the province but it also means to remember how new cultures began to be formed in the GyeongGi area. Therefore, it is necessary to summarize GyeongGi’s cultures that have been formed and changed over the past thousand years in order to create the culture of the new millennium.


KIM Where can we find the global aspect of Gye-ongGi’s culture in relation to the GyeongGi Millennium?


1. Global and open-minded aspects of GyeongGi’s history and culture.

2. Importance of shedding new light on Goryeo’s open-minded and global aspects.



AHN It is worth paying attention to the Goryeo period in relation to the “global and open-mined aspects of GyeongGi’s history and culture.” After its founding, the kingdom of Goryeo designated Gaeseong as its capital. As a result, the main axis Goryeo’s culture moved from the Korean Peninsula’s southeastern region to its midwest. It was at that time Goryeo’s own culture was formed around the capital Gaeseong. That culture embraced the entire kingdom’s cultures including those transmitted from the ancient Three Kingdoms of Korea (Goguryeo, Baekje and Silla). Goryeo’s culture even went beyond East Asia to adopt cultures from Arabia. In order to combine all these cultures and make something new out of them, Goryeo had to be open-minded and dynamic. That was what GyeongGi’s culture looked like during the Goryeo period. Today’s culture in GyeongGi-do Province originates from this.


From a wider perspective, for the past 1,000 years, GyeongGi’s culture shifted its focus from Buddhism to Confucianism and then to modern culture. At the heart of such changes were Korea’s capital and the GyeongGi area. During the Goryeo period, large Buddhist temples were built in the vicinity of the capital Gaegyeong. Meanwhile, political leaders’ children studied Confucianism as they prepared for the test selecting civil servants. As Joseon was founded and the kingdom adopted Neo-Confucianism as its main philosophy, Buddhism declined to gradually give way to Confucian culture. In modern times, Western culture came in and spread in large cities including Seoul. Under these circumstances, GyeongGi also adopted the new culture to change itself.


Although Goryeo was a centralized kingdom, its local areas also had poiltical leaders so it can be said that it also had a local governance system. Each local area had its own culture. In this context, Goryeo came up with a tolerance policy characterized by compromise and coexistence in an attempt to ensure the integration of the kingdom’s entire society. Consequently, the GyeongGi area came to serve as a mediator between the capital and other local areas. This role of a mediator also contributed to the characteristics of GyeongGi Millennium’s culture.


During the Goryeo period, a port for inter-national trade called Byeokrando was located at the mouth of Yeseong River. GyeongGi was thus in a favorable position of absorbing foreign cultures through international exchange. With an open-minded attitude, Goryeo adopted the noble cultures of Tang and Song to integrate these cultures into Goryeo’s culture. In particular, Song’s noble culture play an important role of arouse interest in academic research and in developing it in Goryeo. Therefore, shedding new light on Goryeo’s open-mindedness and global aspect requires research in diverse fields. To be more specific, it would be desirable to organize international symposiums under the following themes: “International Port Byeokrando and Merchants of Gaeseong Seen from the aspect of Goryeo’s International Trade and Commerce”, “Goryeo’s Religious Ceremony Palgwanhwe Intended to Be at the Heart of East Asia’s International Order”, “Global and Open-Minded Aspects of Goryeo’s Culture Focused on Its Relics”, “Nature and Roles of the Cultural Sphere Linking the Han River, Imjin River and Yeseong River.”


KIM Since Goryeo foundation, the present GyeongGi-do province including Gaeseong shared the same culture for 1,100 years. What should be the direction of inter-Korean cooperation commemorating the GyeongGi Millennium?


P olicy direction for the exchange of inter-Korean cultural heritage in the style of GyeongGi-do Province

AHN Today’s North Korea used to be a home to the capital of two kingdoms: Goguryeo and Goryeo. Gaeseong City was the capital of Goryeo which unified the Korean Peninsula in the Middle Ages. The city served as the kingdom’s capital from 919, a year after the founding of Goryeo, and to 1394 when the kingdom transferred its capital to Hanyang after the founding of Joseon. Also called Gaegyeong, Songdo and Gonggyeong at that time, Gaeseong gathered together all the cultures of Goryeo. Traces of such diverse cultures are found in the historic sites in and around Gaeseong. That is why North Korea has conserved the cultural heritage in Gaeseong in a systematic way. In particular, North Korea emphasizes its historical authenticity authenticity transmitted from the ancient kingdoms of Gojoseon, Goguryeo and Goryeo. Thus, it is in the interest of the North to conserve Goryeo’s cultural heritage around Gaeseong along with that of Gojoseon and Goguryeo mostly located in Pyeongyang.


The Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong, which were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2013. The site consists of 12 separate components. The ICOMOS report on World Heritage nomination states that the components are as follows: Kaesong walls, the Kaesong Namdae gate, the Manwoldae Palace archaeological site and remains of the Kaesong Chomsongdae, Koryo Songgyungwan, Sungyang Sowon, Sonjuk Bridge, Phyochung Monuments, the Mausoleum of King Wang Kon with associated Seven Tombs Cluster and Myongrung Tombs Cluster and the Mausoleum of King Kongmin. The report provides in detail North Korea’s suggestions for the conservation and management of these sites and ICOMOS’ recommendations.


In particular, the report specifies relevant laws and plans of maintenance and repair for the protection of the sites. Thus, the report is expected help the two Koreas come up with inter-Korean cooperation projects in the field of cultural heritage focused on the Historic Monuments and Sites in Kaesong.


If the inter-Korea relations improve in the future, demand for projects regarding cultural heritage in North Korea is likely to increase significantly. Inter-Korean exchange involving cultural heritage would require the two Koreas to consider how to set the goals of such projects. Such goals have often tended to focus on the restoration of Korean people’s unity. However, when asked about the reasons for the Korean Peninsula’s unification, today’s young Koreans don’t answer “Because they are the same people.” In other words, the fact that those living in the two Koreans belong to the same ethnic group isn’t appealing to them any more. Therefore, when it comes to considering the unification of the two Koreas, which have been divided for almost 70 years, it is necessary to consider the fact that South and North Koreans have both homogenity and differences. The ultimate goal of inter-Korean exchange of cultural heritage should thus be based on a new, sophisticated culture that could be created from the combination of these similar but different cultures.


The exchange of cultural heritage should respect the principle of mutual interest. The South Korean government needs to secure consistency in its exchange policy and properly coordinate the scope and roles of those running relevant projects. The government should thus plan in a detailed manner how to exchange and utilize inter-Korean cultural heritage. It is also necessary to the Inter-Korean Public-Private Cooperation Committee (draft name) that encompasses relevant ministries, the private sector (media, academia and religion) and the government (central and local governments). They should then cooperate to set the policy direction of the inter-Korean exchange of culutral heritage. Afterward, they need to consider such a policy direction when selecting inter-Korean exchange projects, allocating budget, establishing a detailed implementation plan and evaluating the results of the projects in order to improve their efficiency.


GyeongGi-do Province has recently carried out a medium and long-term project called “Conservation of and Research on Traditional Korean Houses in Gaeseong.” Such a project could be also compatible with inter-Korean exchange. In addition, GyeongGi-do Province needs to come up with plans to engage in inter-Korean exchange in diverse fields. Moreover, it would be very meaningful to organize a special exhibition under the theme of “Goryeo’s palace site in Gaeseong” and to hold Korean and international symposiums celebrating the “1,100th anniversary of the founding of Goryeo” and “GyeongGi Millennium” in order to engage in exchange of inter-Korean historical studies, in cooperation with North Korea.


GyeongGi Cultural Foundation is currently managing Old-line walks called the Uiju Road. The Foundation could collaborate with North Korea so that those from the two Koreas could walk along the road together. The palace of Korea’s ancient state of Taebong now belongs to Gangwon-do Province but it is located inside the DMZ. Gung Ye stayed at the palace from 905 when he transferred the capital from Songak to Cheolwon until his dethronement in 918. If the inter-Korean relations improve in the future, this palace site needs to be studied by the two Koreas.


KIM Could we discuss peace in relation to GyeongGi Millennium?


1. DMZ World Peace Park.

2. UNESCO World Heritage as mixed property.

AHN The Korean Demilitarized Zone is a strip of land of 2km given to each of the two Koreas from the Military Demarcation Line of 248km. This is a unique space that isn’t found anywhere else in the world. It is necessary to transform this space from a place of scars from the war into a symbolic place of peace. If the US and China, which participated in the Korean War, restores mutual trust and make the DMZ a site of piece characterized by exchange and cooperation, their efforts will greatly contribute not only to the detente between the two Koreas but also to world peace.


As for the DMZ World Peace Park, the concept of peace should go beyond the one among humans to reach that between humans and the natural environment. The DMZ should thus ensure peace between the two Koreas and the world and between humans and the natural environment in order to become the true zone of peace.


In order for the DMZ to be born again as a space of ecosystem and peace, it is necessary to respect consistent ecological principles that are compatible with the value of the DMZ, the world’s environmental assets. That is because the preservation of the ecosystem is an important part and prerequisite of peace. The DMZ constitutes not only the current generation’s assets but also heritage that needs to be passed on to future generations. GyeongGi-do Province’s plan for its new millennium should consider the fact that the DMZ World Peace Park project is directly related to the Korean Peninsula’s peace policy, its forming basis for unification, peaceful cooperation among Northeast Asian countries as well as the entire world’s peace and prosperity. The project should thus serve as a stepping stone for national growth, preparation · acceleration of unification.


The world is clearly aware of the fact that the DMZ not only has an ecological value but it also constitutes heritage of the Korean War. Thus, the two Koreas and other countries need to cooperate to clarify the zone’s value as UNESCO World Heritage as mixed property.


KIM Nowadays, the interest of the fourth Industrial Revolution is rapidly growing. What could be the status and value of GyeongGi Millennium in the era of the fourth Industrial Revolution?


1. The fourth Industrial Revolution characterized by the development of electronic, information and communication technologies.

2. GyeongGi Millennium Archives, analysis of big data and supply of customized arts and culture content.

AHN A variety of views exist in relation to the fourth Industrial Revolution. Some people even try to avoid the use of this term. However, it is true that today’s society is expected to change rapidly by generating added value through the discovery, production, storage, sharing and utilization of data. It is also clear that we need to respond to such changes.


GyeongGi Cultural Foundation is currently establishing archives and big data for GyeongGi Millennium. Such a project could suggest the roles of culture in the era of the fourth Industrial Revolution. Such limitless data constitutes a source of knowledge, information and technology-based society.


Huge data is generally divided into public data and private data. The management and utilization of public data requires the GyeongGi provincial government to expand its archives. Meanwhile, GyeongGi Cultural Foundation could manage private data. It is also necessary to reflect on how to manage such diverse social media data.


What I expect is the invigoration of customized services that meet the demand of those who enjoy cultural activities by utilizing diverse data in a systematic way. In addition, multi-language services could contribute to international networking, better selected information and customized services. It would be desirable for GyeongGi Cultural Foundation to take the lead in such endeavor.

#Bulletin #Bulletin Vol.4 #Cultural Policy #interview #GyeongGi Millennium #GyeongGi’s Culture

@Ahn Byung Woo

    • Interviewee/ Ahn Byung Woo, Chairman of the Inter-Korea Historian Association

    • Reporter/ Kim Sunghwan, General Manager of the Policy Office, GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

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    Writer/ GyeongGi Cultural Foundation

    About/ Everything about the GyeongGi arts and culture, GGCF

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