Reconciling the Conservation of Cultural Heritage with Rural Development

The “Andong” City as a Case Study



How to Cite

Lee, S., Jung, J.-H., & Kwon, D. (2022). Reconciling the Conservation of Cultural Heritage with Rural Development: The “Andong” City as a Case Study. M/C Journal, 25(3).
Vol. 25 No. 3 (2022): cities
Published 2022-06-27

Introduction: Cities as Open-Ended Place-Making Events

The shaping and development of cities can be understood as a “place-making” process. Through the assemblage of diverse human and non-human elements—including various social and natural elements—abstract space gains meaning and is transformed into the more concrete form of place (Jaffe and Koning). Indeed, people, nature, arts, and architecture can all contribute to constituting a city, and depending on how these elements engage with each other, each city can be shaped differently, which makes cities “inherently dynamic and heterogeneous” (Jaffe and Koning 24). Furthermore, as these various elements and their meanings can accumulate, be changed, or even diminish over time, place boundaries can also be constantly renegotiated or rebuilt. In other words, place can be characterised as its “throwntogetherness” (Massey 283), which represents temporal and spatial shifts accumulated and woven together in a place, and place-making can be understood as an open-ended event that involves various acts of “territorial meaning-making” (Jaffe and Koning 23). In line with this understanding of place-making as a dynamic, ongoing process, by investigating changes in the ways that local communities engage with cultural heritage, the study reported here explores how cultural heritage can contribute to the development of a city.

Among many other meaning-making elements that may constitute a city, a cultural heritage itself may represent or enfold the dynamics and heterogeneity of a place. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) defines heritage as “our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration” (UNESCO). This definition suggests that heritage embodies history imbued with value and meaning for today and for the future. Cultural heritage may mobilise or recollect emotions, memories, and experiences, which may generate new cultures and values (Chung and Lee). Cultural heritage is not only a primary means of creating and nurturing a collective identity (Graham, Ashworth, and Tunbridge). It can also be refashioned and commodified as a marketable and consumable product. In other words, cultural heritage may contribute to the shaping of regional identities and the development of cultural products that may affect local communities socially and economically.

Against this backdrop, this article examines how, as a constitutive element of a city, cultural heritage can add different kinds of values and meanings in accordance with the ways that the local communities perceive and engage with cultural heritage. To this end, this research presents a case study of the South Korean city of Andong, recognised as a cultural city with abundant tangible and intangible cultural heritages. Specifically, by adopting a qualitative approach that combines archival research, fieldwork, and observation, we trace Andong’s regional history and the changes in its cultural policies from the 1950s to the 2000s. We discuss Andong’s regional development with regard to using and refashioning cultural heritage. In so doing, we argue that conserving cultural heritage and facilitating heritage tourism—agendas seemingly in competition with each other—can complement sustainable regional development. We suggest that reconceptualising cities by drawing on the convergence of virtual and actual spaces, which involves the digitisation of cultural heritage, may open up new possibilities for extending the value and meaning of cultural heritage, as well as reconciling competing agendas and achieving sustainable regional development.

Andong, the Capital of Korean Spirit

Korea and other East Asian countries have accumulated heritages from regional folk culture, Buddhism, and Confucianism. Andong has abundance of both tangible and intangible heritages related to Korean folk culture, Buddhism, and Confucianism, some of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites (e.g. the Hahoe Folk Village, the Bongjeongsa Buddhist temple, and the Dosanseowon and Byeongsanseowon Confucian academies). Even though Andong is not in a metropolitan area and has a small population compared to many other Korean cities, its abundant and diverse heritage has made it a recognised cultural city. As of 2021, the number of cultural assets designated in Andong, according to the Korean Cultural Heritage Protection Act, is 333. This number is the second largest in the country, after Gyeongju, the capital of the Silla Kingdom (57 BC–935 AD).

Andong is the origin of a traditional Korean folk religion called “Seongjusinang”. Practitioners of this religion worship household spirits who protect a house. Andong has also inherited various folk games and performances, such as Chajeonnori (fig. 1) and Notdaribalgi (fig. 2). In addition, Buseoksa, a Buddhist temple located in Yeongju in the greater Andong area, led the development of Buddhist culture during the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC–668 AD) and the Goryeo period (918–1392). During the Joseon Dynasty, Confucianism also flourished through the initiative of Toegye Yi Hwang and Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong, both of whom were well-recognised Korean Confucian scholars. In fact, Andong has a particularly solid Confucian tradition with its twenty-six private Confucian educational institutions, called “Seowon” (fig. 3), and other villages and buildings representing Confucian philosophy, rituals, and customs.

Fig. 1: Chajeonnori: a folk game involving team battles.

Fig. 2: Notdaribalgi: a female folk performance that involves making a human bridge.

Fig. 3: Dosanseowon Confucian Academy (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019).

Preserving these diverse cultural artefacts and traditions is one of the main reasons that Andong claims to be the capital of Korean moral and spiritual culture (Steinmetz; K.I. Lee). Andong has been using and spreading the slogan “The Capital of Korean Spirit” since 2003, when former mayor Kim Hwi Dong started using the slogan for the first time to shape and develop the city's identity to share Andong's spiritual culture. The slogan officially became a registered brand at the Korean Intellectual Property Office in 2006.

Cultural Heritage and Authenticity

As briefly outlined in the previous section, Andong has diverse tangible and intangible heritages, and they are at the heart of the city’s identity. In contrast to other elements that constitute a city, cultural heritage is often regarded as an object of protection and preservation. Indeed, a cultural heritage has a fundamental, inherent value, as it manifests history, which may significantly influence how people form individual and collective identities and consolidate a sense of community. Therefore, preservation and restoration have often served as the primary approaches to cultural heritage. Particularly in the Korean context—as discussed in detail in the next section—conservation used to be prioritised in heritage management. However, in more recent times, cultural heritage has been recognised as an asset or resource for urban development; accordingly, many cities, including Andong, have become increasingly interested in heritage tourism as a means of promoting their city’s brand and boosting the local economy.

The emergence of the concept of “existential authenticity” may be relevant to the paradigm shift in approaches to cultural heritage. In fact, “authenticity” is an elusive concept that can be interpreted in different ways. In the field of tourism, it conventionally has been considered related to toured objects. For example, “objective authenticity”, which is characterised as identifiable and measurable, is gauged in terms of whether a toured object is genuine or fake (Wang). Another type of object-related authenticity is “constructive authenticity”, which denotes authenticity as a negotiable quality constructed by perspectives, beliefs, expectations, or ideologies, rather than an inherent property (Wang; see also Boonzaaier and Wels). From this perspective, origins or traditions can be understood as a projection of images, preferences, or expectations; thus, copies or reproductions may also be considered authentic. Even though these two approaches are significantly different, both notions are oriented to “experiences of the authentic” (Moore et al.).

By contrast, “existential authenticity” involves tourists’ experiences, that is, “personal or intersubjective feelings activated by the liminal process of tourist activities”, whereby people feel “more authentic and more freely self-expressed than in everyday life” (Wang 351–352). In other words, conservation may not be the only method for protecting cultural heritage and preserving its authenticity. Rather, heritage tourism, which provides tourists with authentic experiences, can be a way of adding new meanings and values to cultural heritage. This also suggests that not only cultural heritage as authentic objects, but also experiences of cultural heritage, can contribute to the territorial meaning-making process and constitute a city. In line with this understanding of different types of authenticity, the next section examines how Andong’s approaches to cultural heritage have changed over time.

The Evolution of Cultural Policies: The Conservation of Cultural Heritage vs. Regional Development

The development of Korean cultural policies needs to be understood in relation to the idiosyncrasy of Korean historical and societal contexts. After the Japanese colonial rule (1910–1945) and the Korean War (1950–1953), one of the primary concerns of the Korean government was to reconstruct the country and restore national pride by building and developing a Korean cultural identity. Against this background, Korean cultural policies until the 1980s were mainly oriented towards repairing, restoring, and preserving traditional culture rather than fostering tourism and leisure to pursue a nationalistic agenda (H.S. Kim; Min). In this regard, it is worth noting that the first Korean Folk Art Festival, as part of the national policy, was hosted to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Korean government in 1958, when Korea was still going through the aftermath of the Korean War, which ended up with the destruction of cultural and natural heritage in Korea. The festival was a kind of competition where regions presented their representative intangible cultural heritages, particularly folk performances. The Gyeongsangbuk-do province, led by Andong, participated in this competition by restoring Hahoebyeolsinguttallori (mask dance play originating from Hahoe Village [fig. 4], hereafter Hahoe Mask Dance [fig. 5]) and Notdaribalgi (female folk play [fig. 2]) with the support of Andong City, and the province won the presidential prize.

Fig. 4: Hahoe Village: the origin of the Hahoe Mask Dance.

Fig. 5: Performers in the Hahoe Mask Dance.

Initially, the Korean Folk Art Festival was planned as a one-off kind of event. However, it became a recurring annual event to propagate and promote the national culture with governmental support under the Park Jung Hee regime (1963–1979) that pursued a nationalistic agenda (H.S. Kim). Afterwards, this event was developed in complementary relations with the Cultural Properties Protection Law established in 1962 as part of the legislation of heritage management and other regional folk festivals, which provided regional governments and local communities with a motivation for the discovery and restoration of cultural heritage. Traditional cultural heritages dispersed in many regions started to be discovered and restored with the massive administrative support of regional governments to take part in the Korean Folk Art Festival. Once a cultural heritage presented at the festival was awarded, the heritage was customarily designated as a national cultural property by the Cultural Properties Protection Law. This designation helps cultural heritage gain social authority and receive public attention (H.-D. Yoo). Furthermore, a heritage designated as a national cultural property was required to be reintroduced to the public, often through local events such as regional folk festivals, which reinforced local communities’ pride in their regional culture. In this scenario, Andong actively participated in the Korean Folk Art Festival. Indeed, a number of cultural performances have been officially designated as national and regional intangible cultural properties, including the Hahoe Mask Dance mentioned above, which have become representative of Andong’s regional culture, offering a foundation for its development as a cultural city.

Cultural policies, however, were still limited to preservation and restoration pursuing objective authenticity until the 1980s. It appeared to lack an awareness that cultural heritage could be used for the regeneration or development of cities in the 1980s (Kim and Kim). The conservation of cultural heritage and regional development have often been regarded as competing agendas, because cultural heritage is normally considered to be different from other tourism resources. Indeed, authenticity is a fundamental value sought in cultural heritage. Therefore, preservation and restoration often used to be primary approaches to cultural heritage. However, as discussed in the previous section, authenticity is not merely a binary concept that differentiates between the real and the fake in terms of the accurate representation of the past, but it can be a generative value that can be constituted or negotiated based on various perspectives, beliefs, and experiences (see Wang; K.-H. Kim; Waitt). Furthermore, the commodification of cultural heritage does not necessarily violate the intrinsic meaning and authenticity of heritage; rather, it may produce new meanings and values (Cohen).

In this context, it is worth noting that the first Andong Mask Dance Festival hosted in 1997 paved the way for the development of tourism resources using cultural heritage in Andong and the globalisation of its regional culture. In fact, in the mid-1990s, Korea was going through interesting political events that significantly affected its culture and society. “Globalisation” was declared a national vision by former president Kim Young-sam in 1995, and the local self-governance of municipalities was reimplemented in the same year. In other words, Korean cultural policies were oriented towards “globalisation” and “localisation” during this period (see also Park). Against this background, Andong organised and hosted an international festival for the first time ever in 1997—the Andong Mask Dance Festival—by refashioning a traditional mask dance—the Hahoe Mask Dance. The Hahoe Mask Dance was a festive drama performance in Hahoe Village, but its inheritance was interrupted during the Japanese colonial period. Afterwards, as mentioned earlier, it was restored after the establishment of the Korean government and designated as a national cultural property. It then became the main theme of an annual festival, which attracts one million tourists to the city every year. In other words, the Hahoe Mask Dance is not only one of the most representative, well-known cultural heritages of Andong, but it also has an emblematic significance in the sense that it embodies the history of Andong’s cultural development. In particular, the Andong Mask Dance Festival immensely contributed to enhancing the awareness of cultural heritage as a tourism resource that may foster cultural economy in the local community and influenced the paradigm shift of approaches to cultural heritage from traditional artefacts or customs to be preserved to tourism resources. Most of the cultural events that took place in Andong after the first Andong Mask Dance Festival aimed to boost tourism. Indeed, the Andong Mask Dance Festival brought about important changes to Andong’s cultural development in the 2000s. Festivals that refashioned cultural heritage and tourists’ experiences began to be important elements of Andong’s character as a city.

In accordance with the emergence of tourism as a means for cultural development, Andong experienced another remarkable change in its cultural development during the 2000s: increased interest in tangible cultural heritage as a local resource for tourism and place marketing. From the establishment of the Cultural Properties Protection Law until the 2000s, the preservation and utilisation of cultural heritage in Andong was primarily focussed on intangible cultural properties. This was mainly because the legal ownership of cultural heritage was clearly stated in the law, and thus Andong was able to manage architectural conservation without many challenges; thus, tangible cultural heritage tended to be relatively neglected in favour of the preservation and management of intangible cultural properties. However, in 2000, the Korean national government invested 470 billion KRW (approximately US$382 million) into the restoration and renovation of cultural heritage sites in eleven regions, including Andong. Even though this project did not produce immediate, significant touristic effects, many architectural heritage sites and traditional villages in Andong were renovated as part of the project. This provided the local community with an opportunity to see how tangible cultural heritage could act as an asset for place marketing and tourism.

Furthermore, there was another event that motivated the use of architectural heritage to promote tourism in the early 2000s: the Tourism Promotion Act, which permits the use of architectural heritages for the purpose of accommodating commercial businesses, led to the addition of “Traditional Korean housing experiencing business” in the list of tourism business categories. This change also accelerated the utilisation of tangible cultural heritage as a tourism resource.

In this context, place marketing combining tangible and intangible cultural assets has increased since the 2000s. In fact, before the 2000s, many cultural events lacked a coherent link between tangible and intangible cultural properties. For example, even though the Hahoe Mask Dance originated in Hahoe Village, the dance performance was often performed as an independent event outside Hahoe Village. However, since tangible cultural heritage—particularly architectural heritage—emerged as a local tourism resource, Andong has been developing cultural and artistic events relevant to heritage sites and the interesting narratives and storytelling that connect various heritages and make tourists develop emotional attachments to Andong and its cultural heritage (see D.Y. Lee). This shows that Andong’s approaches to cultural heritage began to seek the existential authenticity in tourism that may provide tourists with meaningful experiences.

Future Directions: Redefining the City

As has already been discussed, not only cultural heritage itself, but also national and regional policies, perspectives, experiences, meanings, and values have all contributed to making Andong a recognised cultural city. Notably, Andong’s development can be summarised as the adoption of diverse approaches to cultural heritage along with changes in social agendas and cultural policies. Even though the conservation of cultural heritage and regional development have at times been regarded as competing interests, for Andong—a city that has a large number of tangible heritages that come with enormous costs related to preservation and maintenance—the commodification of cultural heritage might be unavoidable. Indeed, the conservation of its heritage as well as regional development through the use of its heritage as a tourism resource are the two goals that Andong should achieve to ensure that it experiences sustainable future development. Doing so would allow it to fulfil the local community’s need and desire to take pride in its identity as a cultural city and boost its cultural economy.

In this regard, we suggest that digitising cultural heritage and incorporating virtual spaces (e.g. the metaverse) into actual places may offer new possibilities for reconciling the conservation of cultural heritage with the need for regional development by allowing us to preserve and manage cultural heritage efficiently while enriching our cultural experience and enabling us to experience various kinds of authenticity.

In the first place, digitisation represents an alternative way to preserve and maintain cultural heritage. Digital technologies can accurately scan and measure cultural heritages and readily reproduce a perfect replica of those cultural heritages, whether actual or virtual, which can serve to protect genuine cultural heritages from unwanted or inevitable damage. Once the data on a cultural artefact have been digitised, it is theoretically possible to preserve the digitised heritage forever without deterioration (Koshizuka and Sakamura; D. Hwan Yoo). Moreover, even though digitised artefacts are not objectively authentic, replicas and reproductions created from them may provide tourists with authentic, meaningful experiences in a constructive or existential sense.

Furthermore, virtual space may offer a site in which past and present cultures can freely encounter and resonate with each other by facilitating the deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation of people and heritage, which may also lead us to an immersive and creative cultural experience. Indeed, various technologies—such as 3D animation, virtual reality, augmented reality, stereoscopic presentation, and 4K ultra high-definition immersive presentation—can create diverse kinds of virtual environment in which tourists can enjoy immersive interactivity and realistically experience heritage objects (Park, Muhammad, and Ahn). Indeed, as illustrated in a case study (D. Hwan Yoo), the digital restoration of Andong’s historical sites (i.e. using digital data collection and archiving as well as 2D and 3D modelling technologies, which reproduce landscapes and architecture in a virtual environment for museum content) may provide a novel cultural experience that fosters existential authenticity across actual and virtual spaces.

To sum up, territorial meaning-making may involve the mobilisation of memories, experiences, and imaginations that are attached not only to actual heritage at actual heritage sites, but also to digitised heritage in virtual spaces, and the place that emerges from such a meaning-making process may be the contemporary city we live in.


This work was supported by the School of Languages and Cultures, University of Queensland, under the 2021 ECR Research Support Scheme, and the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Korea and the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF-2021S1A6A3A01097826).


The figures used in this article are public works by the Cultural Heritage Administration of the Republic of Korea (, and the figures are used according to the Korea Open Government Licence. The data sources are as follows:


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Author Biographies

Seryun Lee, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

Dr Seryun Lee is a Research Professor of Semiosis Research Center at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea. Her research interests include Korean cultural representation, digital media, Deleuzian philosophy, and transnational communities.

Jae-Hoon Jung, University of Queensland

Dr Jae-Hoon Jung is Co-director of the Korean Studies Centre at the University of Queensland, Australia. He has undertaken teaching and research works at Griffith University, the University of Queensland, and other universities in Korea for 33 years. He has research interests in Korean language and culture, sociolinguistics, and foreign language teaching.

Doohyun Kwon, Mirae Culture Foundation

Mr Doohyun Kwon is Director of Mirae Culture Foundation, South Korea. He was Director of the World Foundation of Confucian Culture and is a founder of IMACO_UNESCO, International Mask Dance and Culture Organisation, and Andong Culture Guardians. He is interested in creative performance, festival direction, culture tourism, culture industry management, and community heritage culture centred on Andong area of Korea.