UNESCO Treasures in Korea
The geography of Korea - a peninsula jutting out from the world's largest continent - has contributed greatly to the development of uniquely Korean characteristics.
The foundation for the country's culture and arts is the Korean identity: a combination of traits associated with continental and island peoples. Throughout many millennia, Korea has interacted with the predominant continental cultures of Asia despite its peripheral location in the northeast. Remarkably, while accommodating major religions and traditions of other Asian regions, the country has developed a truly distinct culture in many aspects, which some people call the "centrality of the Korean culture."
Under this topographical influence, the Korean people came to develop a peace-loving yet dynamic character that has created a contemplative yet vibrant, optimistic yet sentimental culture.
Though people started living on the Korean Peninsula in the Paleolithic Age, existing remains indicate that the origin of fine arts dates back to the Neolithic Age (c. 6,000-1,000 B.C.). Rock carvings on a riverside cliff named Bangudae in Ulsan on the southeast coast feature vivid designs of animals and are noteworthy art from the prehistoric age.
Literature and Painting
Korean literature is usually divided chronologically into classical and modern periods.
Korea's classical literature developed against the backdrop of traditional folk beliefs. It was also influenced by Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Among these, Buddhist influence held the greatest sway, followed by enormous influences from Confucianism during the Joseon period.
Modern literature in Korea, on the other hand, developed out of its contact with Western culture, following the course of modernization. Not only Christian thought, but also various artistic trends and influences were imported from the West.
Music and Dance
Music and dance were means of religious worship and this tradition continued through the Three Kingdoms period.
More than 30 musical instruments were used during the Three Kingdoms period, and particularly noteworthy was the hyeonhakgeum (black crane zither), which Wang San-ak of Goguryeo created by altering the seven-string zither of Jin Dynasty China. Also notable was the gayageum, a zither used in Gaya (A.D. 42-562).
The 12-string gayageum is still played in modern Korea.