BSI visits Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation in Korea

BSI visits Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation in Korea

The President and Secretariat of Blue Shield International, together with senior staff from Newcastle University Centre for Landscape , were excited to meet colleagues from the Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation to visit the Republic of Korea for a study trip looking at the Demilitarized Zone and heritage management in Korea.

On 25 June 1950, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) invaded the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The UN deployed troops to support the Republic of Korea. Fighting continued until 27 July 1953, when the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, allowing the exchange of prisoners and creating the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The conflict displaced millions of people, inflicting 3 million fatalities. No peace treaty has ever been signed and the two sides are officially still at war. Due to the access restrictions, nature and the cultural sites within the DMZ retain an exceptional level of preservation; in addition, there are a large number of tourism sites and peace sites within the civilian limit of the DMZ, as well as historic sites such as castles with conflict links.

The team were able to visit conflict focussed cultural sites near the DMZ, including the Gwanseongbo Fort, and sites  inside the civilian demarcation line, including several peace observatories and memorials. The team are seeking to understand the role of the conflict sites and the DMZ in Korean society and the exceptional and unique character of the landscape. In his academic capacity as a Professor at Newcastle University, President Stone is an experienced heritage site manager, and researches World Heritage and peace as the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace, bringing this expertise to the discussions, together with the World Heritage management and landscape experience of our Newcastle University colleagues.

The DMZ is an exceptional testament to the role conflict has played in the history of the Korean peninsula and the impact of conflict on the Republic of Korea today. It is my belief, clearly shared with the people of Korea, that it can also be an exceptional channel for peace, which speaks to the heart of the work of the Blue Shield.

Together with representatives of the Republic of Korea National Committee of the Blue Shield, the team spoke at the DMZ Cultural Heritage Preservation Forum. The event was widely reported in national newspapers with very positive coverage. 

I hope we can transform the DMZ into a place of learning for people worldwide.

 The President and Secretariat also both presented papers at the forum Blue Shield International Activities and the Preservation of Cultural Heritage During War, with the ICOMOS Korea Inter-Korean (the South-North Koreas) Exchange Working Group. Papers highlighted the work of the Blue Shield Movement in peace and in conflict, with governments, heritage professionals and armed forces, as well as a paper from the International Cooperation Division of the Korea Heritage Service on the progress of ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of Armed Conflict.

The Blue Shield conceptual structure, working to bering tge heritage, humanitarian and uniformed sectors together, but in a context governed by politics, law and the media, working for the benefit of communities.

The visit concluded with a meeting with ICOMOS-Korea to discuss the management and preservation of World Heritage sites. The visit generated significant discussion and positive experience sharing with our Korean colleagues.

The GGCF highly respects and appreciates the efforts of Blue Shield International in preserving the cultural heritage of the Korean DMZ. The partnership with Blue Shield International is promising, and their visit to South Korea will serve as a foundation for future initiatives. The insights gained by the Blue Shield researchers during their on-site visit have prompted us to rethink our future strategies.

Our commitment to peace will continue in the future.

Newcastle University Logo
Logo of the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Protection and Peace
Two men (one Western, one Korean) sit at a desk each holding up a copy of the signed MoU, with banners of both parties in the background

The visit builds on our MoU with the Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation, signed last October. The MoU commits us to cooperation in the protection of world cultural and natural heritage sites during armed conflict and to joint scientific research. The study visit follows the Foundation’s hope to establish practical action plans to build the foundation on the ‘Gyeonggi-do DMZ World Heritage Listing Project’ and ‘DMZ World Heritage Listing Project’, which Gyeonggi-do Province has been working on with the Cultural Heritage Administration and Gangwon-do Province, protecting cultural property in conflict regions through international collaboration.

The GGCF works to “establish a cultural platform to promote a culture of well-being among its residents and to make “GyeongGi-do a living place for culture.” They strive to build a cultural ecosystem by expanding support for culture and art, enhancing cultural exchange, and reviving local culture, while developing cultural policies and discovering items and traditions of cultural heritage, and training and improving art and culture activists. The GGCF has discovered and preserved numerous pieces of tangible and intangible cultural heritage and promoted them to the world. One of the important duties of the foundation is to improve the cultural well-being of the socially marginalized by closing the cultural gap between different areas and social groups.


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