24 June 2013
The United Nations has placed the North Korean city of Kaesong on its list of World Heritage sites. The UN's cultural and educational organisation specifically named 12 sites in the city, which was established in the 10th Century, including a palace, a school and defensive walls.
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Kaesong is one of the few historical sites open to tourists that's not specifically linked to the Kim family that has ruled North Korea since independence. The city is held up in the North as a symbol of national reunification as it was the capital of the 10th Century Koryo dynasty that united the entire peninsula.
North Korean officials attending the UNESCO ceremony stood and clapped the decision to give the sites World Heritage status. The North has always used its interpretation of history to boost its case in the struggle for national sovereignty against South Korea.
The South maintains that an earlier southern-based dynasty was the first to unify the country. But even the legacy of Kaesong is a sensitive one for the North's historians. The dynasty marked a high water mark for Buddhism on the peninsula - a culture that was all but eradicated, along with other religions, after independence.
The city was initially in South Korea after the division of the peninsula in 1945 but was conquered by northern forces during the Korean War. It later came to be seen as a symbol of reconciliation - being near the site of a joint industrial zone established by the two sides after the year 2000. But the southern-owned factories currently lie idle - closed by the North Koreans during a recent bout of tension over its rocket and nuclear tests.
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- held up
put in a high and important position
joining together parts of the country that were divided
rulers who came from the same family
understanding or explanation
- a high water mark
the most important time
got rid of or destroyed
- a symbol of reconciliation
something that shows (the possibility that) two groups with different ideas can agree
- lie idle
not working or not being used