Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Pyongyang Raengmyon Custom

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S/N Korean Humanities Vol.9 No.2 pp.47-68 ISSN : 2384-0668(Print)
ISSN : 2384-0692(Online)

Kim Jongsuk
Korea University in Japan

Received July 21, 2021; Revised version received December 30, 2021; Accepted February 10, 2022


The Pyongyang Raengmyon (MR: P’yŏngyang Raengmyŏn) custom was inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Through this, we saw how North Korea carries out activities to protect its intangible heritage, and in particular how it carries out efforts to inscribe its intangible heritage on the UNESCO list, including its culinary culture and folk and ethnic foods. The issue of preserving the culinary culture of North Korea, a nation that now aspires to be a socialist civilization, can be called an activity to discover, create, and critically and developmentally alter a food culture that was severed by the Japanese colonial era and the Korean War, and a process of recovering the North Korean and reasserting national pride and self-respect. Activities to protect cultural heritage in socialist North Korea are conducted in keeping with the spirit and essence of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, and this can be seen as the final result of the interlocking of the passion for life blossoming amid the people and state policy in a county that aspires to be a social civilization. This study attempts to discover the background to Pyongyang Raengmyon custom’s inscription on UNESCO’s Intangible World Heritage List by explaining the history of the custom and how expressions such as sŏnju humyŏn (“first liquor, then noodles”) and iraeng ch’iraeng (“fighting cold with cold”) became deeply reflected in the North Korean dietary customs, the methods of making the noodle dough from buckwheat, which flourishes in the northern part of Korea centered on Pyongyang, as well as the radish water kimchi broth, the garnish and the noodles, and how Pyongyang Raengmyon itself—served in unusual bowls— became world famous for the peculiar way it is eaten.

Key Words : UNESCO Intangible World Heritage, Pyongyang Raengmyon, raengmyŏn, cultural heritage protection, folk customs, preserving folk cuisine, identity

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