Korean Classic Cinemas are Cultural Properties of Modern Times

Published on website: April 11, 2012
Categories: Archiving , The StoryBoard Blog
The Korean Film Archive

Written by Bong-Young Kim
Head of Film Conservation Center, Korean Film Archive
Translated with permission from the Korean Film Archive

Movies document the culture and awareness of contemporary times and such recognition, elevates the cultural value of movies.

Back in February, Turning Point of the Youngsters, by Jong-Hwa Ahn (1934) was registered as a cultural property in Korea. This is the eighth classical film registered as cultural property, all of which are securely kept in the Korean Film Archive.

Let’s take a look at how we started with movies as cultural properties, now that Turning Point of the Youngsters has been registered as one of the valued cultural properties.

Process of registering cine films as cultural properties

I received an email from the secretariat of International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) based in Brussels, Belgium at the end of 2001, asking me to endorse Metropolis, a German-made silent movie produced in 1927, as a World Heritage Property to the World Heritage Committee who was holding a conference in Cheongju, Korea.

Implications of turning cine films into cultural properties

During that time, the Korean government was likewise engaged in efforts to have Jikjisimgyeong, the second volume of "Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests' and Seungjeongwon Ilgi, the “Diaries of the Royal Secretariat”, registered as World Heritage Properties. All three cultural properties Metropoli, Jikjisimgyeong and Seungjeongwon Ilgi were successfully registered as official UNESCO Memory of the World Register, and made headlines in the film industry in Korea and abroad.

Similar to the UNESCO project, Korea has a ‘Cultural Properties Registration’ system, designed to protect and preserve cultural heritage of modern times.

I received another call from the Cultural Properties Administration in 2006, to discuss the registration of movable assets in modern times as cultural properties with Hong-Jun Yoo, Administrator of the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea and Hyo-In Lee, former Director of the Korean Film Archive.

The fact that cine films are turning into world cultural properties carries huge symbolic meaning. It is encouraging to know that Korean classical cinemas are recognized for their artistic and social value and that the Korean Film Archive is upgraded to an institute similar to world cultural properties.

The Cultural Properties Administration believes that a successful registration process of classical domestic cinemas as world cultural properties would raise public awareness of the project.

Challenging but rewarding process of registering cine films as cultural properties

It was extremely challenging to implement the project. First, we had to come up with the standards against which the cine films were evaluated for, during registration. It was followed by a number of lengthy procedures and demanding requirements of relevant laws and regulations. This process allowed us to engage in serious debates regarding the evaluation criteria and registration procedures. Members of the Cultural Properties Committee and key figures in the film industry also met to assess the value of the cinemas selected as candidates. Finally, a public hearing was held in May 2007 on the registration of Korean classical movies as cultural properties of the National Palace Museum of Korea. The hearing was considered a major event and was extensively covered by media. A total of seven Korean classical movies, including Sweet Dream (1936) were registered as Modern Cultural Properties in June 2007. The Cultural Properties Administration secured a budget to protect registered cultural properties, which was an extra bonus of the worthwhile project.

For more information on Korean Film Archive visit http://www.koreafilm.or.kr/  

The Translator’s Notes: Please refer to descriptions in the Official Site of Korea Tourism Org. Jikjisimgyeong, a Buddhist scripture, was printed with the world's first movable metal type http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/CU/CU_EN_8_5_8_1.jsp

Seungjeongwon ilgi or Diary of the Royal Secretariat is a daily record of Seungjeongwon, Royal Secretariat during the Joseon Dynasty of Korea (1392 - 1910) http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/CU/CU_EN_8_5_8_2.jsp

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