The Koguryo Kingdom covered the majority of Democratic People's Republic of Korea and north-eastern China, from 227 BCE until 668 CE. Some of the most significant tangible remains of this civilisation include fortresses, ruined palaces and Buddhist temples, and tomb stelae, some of which are decorated with magnificent painted murals representing the luxurious after-life awaiting the deceased. It is believed that these decorated tombs were intended for kings, royal family members and nobility. The paintings provide unique evidence of life during this period.
In 1998, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea ratified the World Heritage Convention, and in 2000 it sought preparatory assistance from the World Heritage Centre, under the aegis of the Global Strategy, to prepare the nomination proposal for the Complex of Koguryo Tombs.
Three technical assistance missions took place under the framework of the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement between 1999 and 2001 and the nomination dossier was submitted in January 2002. The property Complex of Koguryo Tombs was inscribed in 2004, at the same time as the Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom situated on the other side of the border, in China. This was the first property to be inscribed on the World Heritage List for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.