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North, South Korea jointly earn heritage status for traditional wrestling

By Wooyoung Lee
North, South Korea jointly earn heritage status for traditional wrestling
Two athletes of traditional Korean wrestling “ssireum” compete in a championship held in North Gyeongsang Province, southeastern South Korea, on Nov. 26, 2018. Ssireum was added to UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage list the same day. South and North Korea have sought UNESCO listing of the sport. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Nov. 27 (UPI) -- Traditional Korean wrestling, practiced in North and South Korea, has been named an intangible cultural heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

It's the first time that the two Koreas made a joint bid to have their shared cultural practice recognized by the institution.

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Earlier, North and South Korea each applied for traditional Korean wrestling or called "ssireum" in Korean to be included in the UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage. The ancient form of wrestling has been practiced in North and South Korea with its origin deeply rooted in agricultural society.

Amid diplomatic efforts to improve inter-Korean relations, two Koreas merged their separate applications and the UNESCO accepted the joint bid.

"The fact that both Koreas accepted to join their respective application is unprecedented," said Audrey Azoulay, director-general of UNESCO, in a statement Monday.

"The joint inscription marks a highly symbolic step on the road to inter-Korean reconciliation. It reminds of the peace-building power of cultural heritage, as a bridge between peoples. This marks a victory for the longstanding and profound ties between both sides of the inter-Korean border," she said.

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