Seung Bum Lim
Chief of Education and Cooperation Team, Intangible Heritage Promotion Division, National Intangible Heritage Center, Republic of Korea

Background to ICH Experience Education

Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) refers to the non-physical aspects of cultural heritage. We can preserve tangible cultural heritage, such as buildings and artifacts, to pass them down to the next generation. It is, however, difficult to determine what specifically should be preserved when it comes to ICH. Generally, ICH elements are selected and then practitioners of the arts or skills are designated to preserve and transmit the elements. The essence of ICH preservation, therefore, is to transmit the arts and skills of ICH from people to people and from generation to generation.
In Korea, the importance of ICH transmission is well represented in the Act on the Safeguarding and Promotion of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which was established in 2015. It is worth noting that the Act stipulates that ICH transmission education can be part of public education systems, as conventional apprenticeship training alone cannot ensure sustainable transmission of ICH.
In addition to specialized education for practitioners, it is also important to raise public appreciation and enjoyment of ICH, as it can motivate practitioners to further enhance their skills. If ICH is absorbed into our daily lives, it will be naturally and actively transmitted.

Extensive education of ICH is vital for systematic transmission of ICH. In other words, it is necessary to provide the general public with easy access to ICH education, so they can appreciate various fields of ICH in everyday life. By acknowledging the importance of education, the National Intangible Heritage Center (NIHC) has been operating ICH experience classes and career exploration camps for people and especially the youth. NIHC is also opening public workshops and Saturday workshops on ICH.

The details about such activities that were held in 2018 are introduced in the following section, which also explains the achievements and significance.

Relevant Programs

ICH Experience Education

NIHC has been providing the ICH experience education program, especially for elementary and middle school students, since the center opened in 2014. The program begins in March or April, every year when the new semester starts. The NIHC staff who manage experience education select a specific genre or element of ICH and then assign a practitioner of the element as the instructor. Instructors are selected among the practitioners of about twenty national intangible cultural properties. While practitioners are experts in relevant fields, they are not skilled at teaching. So, to help them develop teaching skills, NIHC launched an ICH teaching skill enhancement program. Graduates of the course can work as instructors.

For instance, practitioners who completed the program in 2018 are given a chance to teach for the center’s 2019 program. NIHC is now seeking ways to offer graduates a chance to teach as after-school instructors at elementary and middle schools in cooperation with city and provincial education offices across the country.

ICH experience education is not just about experience. As the program is aimed to ensure that ICH can be appreciated by more people, it also involves theoretical education about ICH (i.e. the significance and value of the given ICH element). Hands-on experience is offered based on such an understating of ICH. The program, therefore, includes about an hour of theoretical session along with hands-on activities.

ICH experience education is not just effective in promoting ICH among the general public, but it also provides ICH practitioners opportunities to teach people. ICH experience education is further expected to help develop teaching methods on ICH and enhance expertise in ICH education.

ICH Career Exploration Camp

The ICH career exploration camp is held for one night or two nights with the goal of providing students with hands-on experience about ICH and introducing ICH-related careers. Most of the participants are young students aged around 15, who usually have little knowledge about or are unfamiliar with ICH. The camp has provided students with a chance to experience and learn about various ICH elements and discover their hidden talents.

In the camp, the students attend basic learning classes about three to four ICH elements. Then, they can attend an in-depth class by selecting one of the elements. The camp also provides featured programs, such as mission games and puzzles about ICH, to arouse their interest in ICH.

In addition, there is a field trip to cultural heritage sites in Jeonju where NIHC is located. The students can visit, for example, Gyeonggijeon Shrine and Jeondong Cathedral in the Jeonju Hanok Village and catch fish in Jeonju Stream. Students, who might have been forced to participate in the camp by their teachers or parents, eventually find themselves immersed in the activities and practicing what they have learned all night. After the camp is over, many of the students say they want to join the camp again.

On the last day of the camp, the students demonstrate the ICH that they have learned. For example, students who have learned taekkyeon (a traditional Korean martial art) perform it in front of other students. Those who have learned a mask or sword dance present a short performance of the dance. There is also an exhibition of simple artworks or handicrafts made by students in the camp.

ICH Workshop for Citizen

The ICH workshop for citizen program was launched to promote the value and understanding of ICH through practical education. The program provides beginner-level classes related to traditional craft skills. It was conceived to offer the general public a chance to experience and enjoy ICH as well as to nurture future practitioners.
The program has garnered a positive response from residents in Jeonju and Jeollabuk Province. The classes are held in the evening, as most participants work during the day. The instructors are ICH practitioners who have completed the instructor training.

In 2018, NIHC selected somokjang (minor carpenter), chimseonjang (sewing master), and sagijang (ceramic making master) as subjects for the education program. About ten to twenty people participate in each class. The somokjang class taught the participants how to make seoan (small reading table). The chimseonjang class was held with the theme of making upper garments and pants of hanbok (traditional Korean garment) worn by young boys. The sagijang class taught how to make a tea set with traditional patterns. The public workshop program gives the general public a chance to learn traditional craft skills with guidance of highly skilled practitioners who received ICH instructor training through hands-on experience.

ICH Experience Education Program © National Intangible Heritage Center

Saturday ICH Workshop

The Saturday ICH workshop is an interview program, where a living human treasure in the field of crafts is invited to talk about his/her life and work. Interviews are held on weekends (Saturdays) so the general public can participate as the audience.

During an interview, the invited master talks with an interviewer who usually is a researcher in a related field or a professional announcer. A university student with a related major or one of the disciples of the master joins the conversion. In the audience, there are about twenty people who have come to watch the dialogue through prior application. Participants of the public workshop program are also given a chance to be in the audience, meet masters of the traditional skills that they have learned, and watch live demonstrations.

In 2018, Mun-yeol Park of duseokjang (metalcraft master), Yu-hyeon Choe of jasujang (embroidery master), Hye -ja Gu of chimseonjang, and Jeong-ok Kim of sagijang were invited for interviews.

There were between twenty and thirty people in the audience for each interview, and a total of 116 people for the 2018 program. In addition, the interviews were broadcast live on Facebook, attracting more viewers.


In Korea, there is this word, gwi-myeongchang. Gwi means ear, and myeongchang means a master singer. The word, therefore, refers to a person with an ear for great sounds of great singers. ICH experience education programs aim to expand such gwi-myeongchang. Any master work or exquisite performance would lose its meaning if it were not appreciated by people. There should be more people with a discerning ear, which will encourage great singers to further craft their skills.

In that regard, ICH experience education should be provided in a more active and systematic way. Enhancing teaching skills of ICH instructors is essential to that end. At the same time, proper teaching materials need to be developed. ICH has been long taught and passed down orally. High quality textbooks are instrumental in delivering systematic education.

Meanwhile, ICH education should be connected to public education systems centered around schools. ICH would not be properly transmitted if it were not covered in public education. In the same context, ICH would not survive if the general public did not know of its presence nor pay any attention.

ICH, in other words, will be transmitted as living cultural heritage only if the practitioners and the public are all involved in learning and sharing ICH.