In Korea, there are 319 official national treasures as classified by the cultural heritage association. The definition of a national treasure is stated as an artefact, institution, or public figure regarded as being emblematic of a nation’s cultural heritage or identity. Here’s our list of official and unofficial treasures from this culture-rich county.
It’s like maple syrup to the Canadians’, it’s the national dish of Korea. Kimchi has been around for thousands of years. It’s made with pickled cabbage, salt and other spices and then fermented. This process allows it to last very long periods of time without spoiling; stored in big jars or plastic containers in its own special fridge. Kimchi is very healthy, rich in vitamins and more importantly a very long-lasting addition to any Korean’s diet. If you haven’t already tried Kimchi, go try it now. Before you know it you’ll be craving it and then making your own. This delicious fermented dish is, to us and I am sure others would agree, a national treasure of Korea.
Sungnyemun Gate 숭례문 (Also known as Namdaemun Gate 남대문)
Sungnyemun Gate was the first official national treasure to be confirmed in December 1962. It’s one of eight gates in the fortress wall that used to surround Seoul in the Joseon dynasty. Finished in 1398 this gate was built by command of King Taejo in his fourth year of rule, 1395. As with most things that are old, it has seen quite a lot of history. The gate was extensively damaged during the Korean war in 1950-1953 and repaired in 1961 around the time that it was given the status of National Treasure No.1. However, that was not to be the last of its repairs. In 2008 a fire broke out and ravaged the structure, and once again the Sungnyemun Gate had to be repaired. This time the gate would take 5 years to complete. It was finally completed in 2013 with a lot of fanfare. When you take that dream trip to Seoul don’t miss this National treasure.
Changdeokgung Palace 창덕궁
As one of the five palaces built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty, Changdeokgung Palace was favoured by many. Built in 1405, it’s number 122 on the national treasure list and on the UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) list for a reason. Unfortunately, the Palace was badly damaged in the Japanese invasion of 1592 and burnt down once again in 1623, however it remains one of the most well-preserved of the five palaces. The palace grounds are comprised of a public palace area, a royal family residence building, and the rear garden. Known as a place of rest for the kings, the rear garden boasts a gigantic tree that is over 300 years old.
Seokguram Grotto 석굴암 and Bulguksa Temple 불국사
Seokguram is classified as number 24 national treasure and Bulgaksa Temple is on the UNESCO list. The grotto built in 774 hosts a seated carved Buddha and his guardians, it’s designed so that the Buddha receives the first rays of sun rising from the East Sea. The Temple built around the same time as the Grotto consists of prayer rooms, monuments and two stone pagodas. It also encompasses seven national treasures. Bulgaksa Temple is considered a masterpiece of the golden age of Buddhist art in the Silla dynasty. This one to check out!
Girls Generation (SNSD)
Known as the ‘Nation’s Girl Group,’ Girls Generation deserves to be on our National treasure list too. Deemed as one of the prominent figures of the Korean wave they were the first Asian girl group to have five videos reach over 100 million views on Youtube. This eight-member girl group whose style is characterised as electropop/bubblegum pop just had their 10 year anniversary. After the successful comeback though it was released that Tiffany, Sooyoung and Seohyun were leaving, so even though this group’s future is unknown at the moment they are bound to be just as brilliant as usual. We love you SNSD!!
King Sejong 세종대왕
King Sejong was the third son of King Taejong. He had interest in a lot of things including science, agriculture, technology and literature. He is most famously known as the creator of hangul, which is the native alphabet for the Korean language. Before Hangul was created people in Korea used classic Chinese characters, however, Chinese was harder for the lower classes to learn as education was not readily available to them. This was one of the reasons King Sejong the Great created it. The alphabet is based on a simplified diagram of the patterns made by the mouth, tongue and teeth. Without this creation Korea would not be the nation we know it today.
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Feature Image source ©Seokguram Grotto, 17.2.2018, www.korea.net