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Afghan cultural assets at risk from vandalism by Taliban Updated: 2021-08-27 17:09:04 KST

Today is Friday, and as usual our culture correspondent Kim Bo-kyoung is here in the studio for our weekly "Life With Culture" segment. Today, I heard you have a special story on the dangers facing Afghanistan's valuable cultural heritage.
Bo-kyoung could you elaborate more on that?

Sure Conn-young, Afghanistan's diverse heritage and cultural sites are an integral part of Afghan history and identity, but as they are now in the hands of the Taliban, it is uncertain whether such assets will be safe.
Experts are asking the Taliban not to violate people's cultural rights by destroying them.
Let me tell you more.


Throughout history, Afghanistan has been at the crossroads of civilizations.
Located in the middle of Eurasia, Afghanistan connects to Europe to its west, China to its east, and India to its south and was a strategic point on the Silk Road where people from different cultures met.
But the return to power of the Taliban means the cultural assets that show Afghanistan's rich history are at grave risk.
In 2001, as part of a campaign to rid Afghanistan from idolatry, the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan, large statues that had been carved from stone around 1,500 years ago, and had been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
They also vandalized thousands of treasures in the National Museum of Afghanistan.

"They were especially interested in destroying pre-Islamic heritage of the country including the Buddhist heritage and the Afghan curators went from room to room to quote a journalist at that time "begging for the lives of the statues as if they were their children."

Now people are worried that the tragic history is to repeat itself.
Golden treasures including the opulent, elaborate gold crowns from tomb of Tillya Tepe, similar to the crowns of Korea's ancient Silla Kingdom, have been kept safe for years, but are now also in danger.

"After the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, the treasures had to tour around 11 countries on four continents for ten years until April last year to avoid being damaged. Now they are at risk again."

A UN expert says damaging such assets would be a grave violation of people's rights to freely enjoy cultural heritage without discrimination.

"We have to demand of the Taliban that cultural sites and cultural institutions are secured and respected. They have to be held accountable by the international community if they fail to do so."

As such assets are a part of Afghan people's identity, cultural experts worldwide are hoping Afghanistan's historical assets can stay safe.
We sure have to keep a close eye on what happens to those cultural assets. Turning our attention to South Korea, the Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas is a unique environment with lots of stories to tell. I heard you visited an interesting exhibition that sheds light on some of those stories.

That's right, the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is presenting quite an unusual exhibition titled "DMZ Theater".
It is an interdisciplinary art project of photos, objects and performances sharing narratives from 13 observatories located along the DMZ.
The performances have been created based on photos and stories that artist Jung Yeondoo and director Surya themselves were able to get hold of while visiting these 13 observatories over 50 times since 2017.
13 theaters were named after observatories such as Dora, Odusan and Ganghwa, and the artists say though it was hard to visit the sites due to the severe restrictions, they hope visitors to this exhibition could let people know about the stories and undiscovered folktales related to the area.

"It was tough to get into the observatories. We needed to identify ourselves in advance and go through sites where armed soldiers were. We have gathered beautiful and interesting stories that we were able to get while going to the DMZ over several years."

"Rather than using existing concepts and thoughts that we already have about the DMZ, we wanted to share the stories that we have discovered."

I bet it would be great chance for visitors to get a new perspective of the DMZ. When can we see the performances?

Performances will be shown every Wednesday and Saturday at 4 PM during the exhibition period.

Great, Thank you Bo-kyoung for sharing that cultural information, I will see you next week.

Thank you.
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