Koreas tag-team for wrestling recognition

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Korean wrestlersImage copyright
AFP/Getty

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The sport dates back to the fourth century and has some similarities to sumo wrestling

Unesco has accepted a joint bid by North and South Korea and granted world cultural heritage status to Korean wrestling.

The two countries had initially filed separately, but then decided to try a joint approach – a move the UN agency’s head called “unprecedented”.

The ancient sport is known as Ssirum in the North and Ssireum in the South.

Competitors win by making any part of an opponent’s body above the knee touch the ground.

Wrestlers reportedly start by facing each other in the pit on their knees, holding a sash around the waist and trying to bring their opponent to the floor.

“The joint [bid] marks a highly symbolic step on the road to inter-Korean reconciliation,” Unesco’s director-general Audrey Azoulay said in a press release.

Both Koreas agreed to merge their applications after mediation by the agency.

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AFP/Getty

Image caption

Competitors win by making any part of their opponent’s body above the knee touch the ground

The successful bid marks the latest sign of co-operation between the two nations.

North and South Korea have made several efforts in recent years to thaw ties and end hostility on their shared peninsula.

In October Ms Azoulay met with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in to discuss ways the agency could help boost reconciliation.

At the start of the year the two Koreas agreed to march under a united flag at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

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AFP/Getty

Image caption

Southern matches use sand, while the North uses a round mattress

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AFP/Getty

Image caption

Sleeveless jackets are worn by competitors in the North, while those in the South are topless

Unesco approved the inclusion of the sport on its Intangible Cultural Heritage list at a meeting in Mauritius.

Thought largely symbolic, the successful application could raise the status of the sport.

Previously the two nations had submitted separate bids for cultural recognition. North Korea won recognition for its kimchi in 2015, two years after South Korean kimchi made the list.

South Korea submitted a plan to Unesco in 2011 applying for the demilitarised zone between it and its northern neighbour be turned into a biosphere reserve.

The UN body rejected the proposal the following year after objections from the North.



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