Naganeupseong, a historic village located in the Southwest province of Korea, is noted for its well-preserved cultural landscape and traditional lifestyle continued from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). Known as a former administrative town, stretching over Dongnae-ri, Namnae-ri and Seonae-ri in Nagan-myeon, Suncheon City of Jeollanam-do Province, the folk village has preserved the crucial elements of a traditional town village, which includes a fortress, government buildings and private houses. Its traditional folklore and natural landscape add the village’s value as an outstanding historic town of Korea.
The village was created on a level field surrounded by mountains. Serving as an administrative core for Nagan-eup (county) during the Joseon and Goryeo (918-1392) Dynasties, it was equipped with necessary facilities for both public and private purposes: a government office to rule over the town; fortress for defense; a cluster of private houses; and forests forming a natural landscape and providing a space for rites. The village is also a venue for the transmission of important intangible cultural heritage, including farmer’s music (nongak ), communal rituals, pansori epic chant, gayageum (12-string instrument) performance with songs ( gayageum byeongchang ) and seasonal customs and rites.
The records on Nagan County and its fortress can be found in several official gazettes of the Joseon Dynasty. Of them are the King Sejong’s Annal (Sejong sillok ), a section of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, the Newly Augmented Survey of the Geography of Korea (Sinjeung dongguk yeoji seungnam ) and Nagan County Gazette (Nagan eupji ).
According to the geography section of the annal of King Sejong (Sejong sillok jiriji ), there were 96 town fortresses (eupseong ) in 334 villages. Most of them, however, were dismantled under the Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, and only a few fortresses including Naganeupseong survive in its original condition. Amongst them Naganeupseong is regarded the best among its kind with its well-preserved overall landscape with the fortress, government office and housings.
Administrative towns of the Joseon Dynasty are different in terms of their geographical conditions, spatial composition and visual landscape from those of the Goryeo Dynasty. Against the backdrop of a mountain, the government office was built and people’s houses settled in order. This typical spatial composition and visual aesthetics of Joseon are fully revealed in Naganeupseong, and the spatial formation and landscape differ from those of local cities in the neighboring China and Japan.
The village created inside the fortress was a venue for the local government’s ruling and people’s life since the Joseon Dynasty. A record shows that it was populated with 950 people of 337 Naganeupseong 5 households during the Joseon Dynasty. Afterwards, the population was reduced to 820 in 199 households, and currently 288 people live in 90 households.
The houses in the village are thatch-roofed, a fact distinguished from the other historic villages of Korea, where tile-roofed houses for the literali and thatch-roofed buildings for commoners are mixed. All private houses extant inside the fortress are thatch-roofed, following the typical type of an administrative town of Joseon, and a fortress village consisting of only thatch-roofed houses is hardly found throughout the country. Notably, the thatch-roofed houses show the typical floor plan and building arrangements — a line-shaped three-bay building facing Southwest — revealing the traditional commoners’ housing style of the Southwestern province of Korea.
The pansori epic chant, an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, has been transmitted in the fortress village, and the town is also famous for the home town of O Tae-seok, a renowned musician in playing gayageum with songs. To pray for the wellbeing of the village, communal rituals have been performed in the first month of the lunar calendar, and a communal music festivity has continued from the past.
As a typical local town of the Joseon Dynasty representative of historic fortress villages of Korea, Naganeupseong contains the symbols of agricultural society such as thatch-roofed houses, timeold customs and communal rites. It is comprised of essential elements for a typical administrative town of Joseon such as a cluster of people’s houses, fortress and government office. Also, the village embodies the ideological view of Confucianism, the dominant ideology of Joseon, in its spatial composition and landscape. The fortress village’s role as the administrative town of the region is also evidenced by a stele pavilion, documents and maps, folklore materials, customs and large old trees. Many families have lived in the village for generations, keeping their traditional lifestyle.
(iii) bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
The creation and development of the village as an administrative and commercial hub was based on the fortress built with stone during the Joseon Dynasty. The local government office and people’s houses were formed inside the fortress, and the whole village along with its fortress remains in its original condition. Showing the typical landscape of an administrative town of Joseon, the village reveals its time-honored folklore culture and beautiful natural landscape.
(iv) be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
The architectural structures and natural elements consisting of the village such as the fortress, government office buildings (tile-roofed), houses (thatch-roofed), a stele pavilion and large old trees prove the outstanding quality of artistic and technical skills of the village, which embodies the Confucian ideology in its landscape, which is in harmony with nature.
(v) be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
The village is a classical example of a fortress town of Joseon. Located in an important geographical area connecting the sea (Southern coast) and the land, it was created using its natural topographical conditions and developed as a traditional settlement. The village is a living cultural heritage as a whole where the descendents of the Joseon Dynasty are living, and needs to be protected from any possible danger from industrialization, urbanization and modernization, which have been accelerated until today.
(vi) be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria) ;
The village was a stronghold of the local administrative and commercial activities, and this is evidenced by the physical elements in the village including the fortress, government office, houses and a stele pavilion. Currently, it serves as a base for traditional musicians of the pansori epic chant and gayageum music, and other intangible heritage of music and communal rituals also helps to understand the local culture from the Joseon Dynasty.
Since its designation as a national heritage in 1983, a series of projects for conserving the village landscape have been conducted at the site, with an aim to conserve the village overall in its original state. As a result, the village has gained higher integrity, and has become to stand out as the one and only village having a well-preserved landscape of an administrative town of Joseon among the totaled 96 towns built some 600 years ago across the country.
The integrity of the stone fortress is sustained in its function and construction methods. The government buildings were also restored based on thorough research and excavation conforming to the Cultural Heritage Protection Act.
The houses clustered in the village are under strict protection of the government, and nine of them are designated as State-designated heritage and managed by the central government.
The conservation management of Naganeupseong conforms to the Cultural Heritage Protection Act, and there are several laws and regulations at local levels. Residents also run their own association for protecting the site.
Naganeupseong, where traditional housings and government office buildings were constructed during the Joseon Dynasty, is a crucial site for studying traditional architectural styles found in a distinctive human settlement. Created in an open level field, the village has grown up to the current size and developed as an administrative town. Currently, it is recognized as a historic cultural landscape where folklore culture is in harmony with nature.
The entire village was designated a national heritage (Historic Site No. 302) in June 14, 1983. Also, the houses of historic and academic significance were individually designated as a national cultural property, and the major components of the town landscape such as the government office, stele pavilion and large old trees are under government protection too.
It was in the Baekje (BC 18- 660AD) period that a village was first created at the site of this fortress town. However the historic value of the village took its form during the Joseon Dynasty as the village grew as an administrative town. Noting the significance of the historic village, a series of restoration projects have been carried out for recovering the village’s traditional landscape. Efforts have been made to maintain the original style in the village’s spatial composition and architectural styles.
In the housing cluster, 231 houses remain in their original condition. Notably, nine houses that are State-designated properties (Important Folklore Materials) exhibit the traditional living space and lifestyle of the Southern province of Korea and are highly recognized as a valuable source for academic research. The fortress, a public space, has been well preserved since being constructed in early Joseon (1424). It offers an example of a town planning for a local administrative center during the medieval times of Korean history.
The folklore cultural heritage including music performance, communal rituals, pansori epic chant and gayageum performance have been transmitted in the village and the space for rites and houses for renowned artists have been preserved and used for education.
Comparison with other similar properties:
Houses, fortress and government buildings are mingled in Naganeupseong, and the spatial composition of the village represents the typical administrative town of the Joseon Dynasty. The fortress village served as a central town during the medieval times in Korean history and people have lived here for generations creating a local community.
In general, there are two types of historic villages in Korea: clan village and fortress village. Fortress villages emerged in the ancient times and developed during the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties. Serving as an administrative, military and commercial core of the region, government buildings, fortresses, houses and forests were created in the town. According to the role of each component, the village area is divided into several sectors like public, production, ritual, life and landscape areas. Contrary to Naganeupseong, other fortress villages in Korea such as Gochangeupseong in North Gyeongsang Province and Haemieupseong in South Chungcheong Province have lost their role as a living place with no settled population. Only public architecture remain at the sites at present. In the case of Seongeup Village in Jeju Island, the village served as an administrative office for a county in Jeolla Province despite its remote location.
Clan villages, to which most Korean historic villages belong, are usually situated near a river and mountainous areas. The spatial components of the village are residences, family shrines, pavilions, study halls and private academies, and the remaining tangible and intangible properties such as ancient documents, faith and rituals display the traditional lifestyle of the villagers. Hahoe and Yangdong Villages, already inscribed on the World Heritage List, and Oeam Village are representative of this village type.
The traditional housing style, cultural landscape and people’s lifestyle in Naganeupseong found in its thatch-roofed houses, traditional customs and rituals represent the agricultural society in Asia. Contrary to other World Heritage sites in Asia, most of which are related to religion and dynasty, the fortress village contributes to diversifying UNESCO’s cultural heritage site as a local administrative hub.
High integrity of a historic village and a type of traditional settlement can be found in the World Heritage site of Japan. The Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, located in remote mountainous areas, are known for their Gassho-zukuri houses equipped with facilities for silkworm farming.
Compared to these Japanese villages, Naganeupseong is characterized by the line-shaped thatchroofed houses for commoners clustered inside the fortress, as well as its role as an administrative and commercial core of the region.
In China, the housing styles and villages are varied in terms of ethnic tradition, local environment and periods due to its extensive territory and diverse people. China has five World Heritage villages — Ancient City of Ping Yao (inscribed in 1997) and Old Town of Lijiang (1997), fortress villages; Kaiping Diaolou and Villages, a village showing the cultural exchange with the West; Fujian Tulou, an agricultural village with a housing cluster; and the Ancient Villages in Southern Anhui — Xidi and Hongcun, villages based on Confucian culture. In particular, the Ancient City of Ping Yao, a well-preserved Han Chinese city discovered in the 14th century presents how the Chinese architectural styles and city planning have changed for the past 500 years.
Based on its fortress constructed in early Joseon, Naganeupseong has maintained its original state for 600 years. As a representative fortress town of Korea, the village displays the typical features of a local town from the Joseon Dynasty.