An inter-Korean excavation project just over the Northern side of the border is part of efforts to build a common awareness of history critical for future unification, a staff member involved told NK News.
“This project aims at making the two Koreas’ historical awareness closer,” said Shin Joon-young, secretary general at the Council of South and North Korean Historians. “It would not be a complete unification if both sides cannot share common awareness regarding same history.”
South Korean historians and archaeologists headed for Kaesong yesterday to excavate the historical site called Manwoldae, site of the Koryo dynasty’s (918-1392) royal palace.
After first group’s arrival yesterday, another group of scholars and government officials will be in Kaesong tomorrow for the opening ceremony. Approximately 80 South Korean scholars and professionals will visit the city over a six-month period, which among inter-Korean projects is an exceptional scale and duration.
“We’ve discussed co-excavation since 2005, and started in 2007. After considering a few places we selected Kaesong, where people can stay a longer time than in Pyongyang since there are accommodations at KIC (the Kaesong Industrial Complex),” said Shin, who will visit Kaesong tomorrow.
The project has been conducted since 2007, though it has been halted a few times due to the fluctuations in inter-Korean relations. Last July it resumed, but only for a month.
“North Korea has already recognized the necessity for long-term excavations, but it was hard to get permission from South Korean government. The budget for this project decreased after the change of administrations to former president Lee Myung-bak (in 2008),” Shin said.
This May, the South Korean Ministry of Unification (MoU) released a statement highlighting the recovery of national homogeneity through sports, co-excavation on historical assets and cultural communication. The MoU confirmed that this project is a partial fulfillment of its May statement.
It is expected that half of the site may be excavated under the current project. This time the team will focus on Manryeong-jeon, the king’s bedroom. About 15 members of the team will commute between the site and KIC.
The Council of South and North Historians is composed of 300 members, including professors and researchers interested in inter-Korean communication on history. The council has hosted a joint academic seminar in Pyongyang and Mount Kumgang once or twice per year since 2001. From 2006 to 2007, the council implemented a joint investigation on Goguryeo mural paintings near Pyongyang.
“It is the first time since the division that Southern and Northern members have worked at the same place for 40 to 60 days per year. There were wars of nerves between South and North scholars due to differences in methodologies, but we were in a same boat on the achievement of this excavation,” the website reads.
MoU said a concrete finance plan has not been put into place for this project.
Manwoldae is located 10 minutes by car from the center of Kaesong. Manwol means “full moon,” a name chosen due to the palace’s shape. The palace was built, utilizing the slanted shape of Mount Songak, without damaging the original environment. The site has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013.
Featured image: Large stone stairs reaching the center of Manwoldae, Council of South and North Historians