South Korea’s lotus lantern lighting festival inscribed as UNESCO world heritage

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Yeondeunghoe, a lantern lighting festival in South Korea, was inscribed on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural assets on Wednesday.

The decision for the lantern festival’s listing was finalized during the 15th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, which started Monday and runs until Saturday. The meeting was held through an online channel due to the global pandemic.

“Unfortunately, we could not celebrate the listing on site together with Korean representatives and the Yeon Deung Hoe Preservation Committee, but we are really glad to see our representative festival Yeondeunghoe being listed after around a three-year journey,” head of the Cultural Heritage Administration Chung Jae-suk said in a statement.

The festival held on the Buddha’s Birthday holiday was designated as Korea’s Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 122 in 2012. In March 2018, the CHA applied for the listing of Yeondeunghoe to the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Chung also highlighted that it was especially meaningful that professionals from the UNESCO Evaluation Body, which chiefly evaluates the application’s technical completeness and the value of the heritage, noted Yeondeunghoe’s application form as a well-prepared example.

In November, the festival successfully received an “inscribe” recommendation from the UNESCO Evaluation Body.

The agency explained that the application included information about the lantern lighting festival‘s value that lays in it being a cultural festival for everyone in South Korea, although it was originally an event with a Buddhist significance.

The origin of the festival dates to the Unified Silla era over 1,300 years ago. During the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392), Yeondeunghoe, which used to be held on Daeboreum, a day celebrating the first full moon of the lunar calendar, turned into a festival marking Buddha’s Birthday.

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With this listing, the festival is now South Korea’s 21st intangible cultural asset inscribed on the UNESCO list.

The most recent cultural heritage item inscribed as such was ssireum, or traditional Korean wrestling, which dates to the Three Kingdoms period, in 2018. Ssireum is also the two Koreas’ first jointly inscribed UNESCO world heritage item.

“We will try to make Yeongdeunghoe a cultural heritage that can be loved by the people around the world regardless of their religion,” Chung added.

By Song Seung-hyun(



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