On the 13th May, the Republic of Korea Committee of the Blue Shield and the Korean Museum Association held a one-day international conference at the National Museum of Korea, and online. Entitled Armed Conflicts and Preservation of Cultural Heritage, the programme included presentations by heritage experts from the Crimean Institute for Strategic Studies on ‘ The Protection of Cultural Property in Armed Conflict in Ukraine and Beyond‘; the Research Institute of Buddhist Cultural Heritage on ‘Damage Suffered by the Buddhist Community during the Korean War‘; and the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation on ‘Korean Cultural Heritage around the World: Finding, Introducing and Returning‘. The event concluded with a round table discussion: ‘Statement for promoting the return of wartime cultural heritage‘. The conference was moderated by Inkyung Chang, Vice President of ICOM and Founding Director of Korea’s Iron Museum.
In his keynote address before the sessions got underway, Professor Peter Stone, BSI President and UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace at Newcastle University spoke about the work and importance of the Blue Shield. He explained the imperative need for cultural property protection (CPP) to begin in peacetime, long before conflict starts, if it is to be effective; that it needs to be not simply a heritage sector effort, but a multi-sector and government responsibility; that CPP needs to be an integral part of military responsibilities and practice, and the humanitarian sector should include CPP practice in their portfolio. Such an approach, commented Professor Stone, disproves assertions such as ‘There’s no time to protect cultural property – we’re fighting a war’, and ‘Protecting people is far more important than protecting old ruins”.
Building partnerships and cooperation across a broad spectrum of players is an approach that underpins all BSI’s work. “CPP should be a key part of the thinking, policy, and practice of the uniformed, humanitarian, and heritage sectors,” stressed Professor Stone during his address to the conference participants, whilst also emphasising that CPP is a way to help build safe, stable and peaceful communities.