Concerning Frederik Dawson's Review
I just read your review on the Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty. It is unfortunate that many tombs are closed for close-up viewing. This was not the case only a couple years ago. Nevertheless, there are still quite a few tomb clusters where you can walk up to some tombs. I was very dissapointed to hear that the two sites you visited were closed beyond the sacrificial buildings. Indeed visiting one of the tombs and not being able to walk up to the actual tomb is dissapointing and would be hard to judge the sites OUV.
Only last June I walked directly up to King Taejong's tomb. (one of the most magnificient of all Joseon tombs) The elaborate stone carvings, guardian animals, and the scholar and general statues are all fantastic to see up close.
*Percieved error in your review
There was some details of the review that stood out as a misunderstanding of Korea and it's relationship with China. Though I am not Korean I know that most Koreans would be offended by your statement that Royal tombs in Korea should only be compared to tombs of dukes, eunuchs, and/or the aristocracy in China.
Section of Review
"In ICOMOS report, I was surprised that ICOMOS and Korea use Chinese Imperial Tombs for comparative study as Emperor and King is totally different in status. To be fair, Joseon Tombs should be compared with the tombs of Chinese ducal or noble family, or Japan's shogun family, as they have equal rank under Chinese imperial tributary system. The tombs of imperial eunuch even have more intricate details than the Joseon ones."
You mentioned tombs of Imperial Eunuchs in China. Some of these Eunuchs rose to greater power than the Emperor's they served, which explains some of the particularly elaborate tombs. Moreover, you never viewed the Joseon tombs up close to see the details of the stone work and statuary figures.
"To be fair, Joseon Tombs should be compared with the tombs of Chinese ducal or noble family, or Japan's shogun family, as they have equal rank under Chinese imperial tributary system."
Why should only China's view of Korea be considered? How about how Korea saw themselves? Should we only look at East Asian heritage through the lens of the Chinese tributary system, would that be accurate? The facts are Korea has never been considered part of China, and for much of their history China considered Korea it's most enlightened neighbor. The tributary system was largely symbolic, in which the Korean monarch was legitimized as a ruler under heaven, though lower in status to China's Emperor. Should we judge Japan's heritage sites by how Ming and Joseon viewed Japan, often as pirates and vagabonds? In ancient East Asia, China traditionally saw itself as the eldest brother (or father), Korea as the middle brother, and Japan as the youngest brother based on how each civilization developed. Should Unesco compare Royal Scottish palaces or castles to the English aristocracy, instead of English royalty because the English mindset was that the Scots were inferior to them? Korea's traditions and history should not be overlooked or judged trivial because of a more powerful neighbor. The same is true for Scotland and the Netherlands.
Korea has been largely independent as a nation throughout their history (except during the Japanese colonial period). In fact, when Ming China fell Korea saw itself as the only true civilization left in East Asia. Ming China and Joseon Korea rose together and each made incredible advancements during the same period and both sacrificed soldiers on the others behalf.
The Joseon dynasty was even more structured in Confucian doctrine than China. Chinese officials were often suprised how deep Confucianism had been absorbed into almost all daily life in Korea. So in many ways Confucianism is more pure in Korea than in China. The Joseon Royal Tombs, Jongmyo Shrine, and the Joseon palaces in Seoul are perfect examples of this. Perfection in placement and architecture with the surrounding environment was the ideal of Joseon architects. Humility and efficient simplicity were greatly admired. While the Joseon tombs are not as elaborate as Chinese Royal tombs, the placement of the tombs show far more consideration of the natural environment in relation to tomb construction. This was all purposefully done, many Chinese style tombs would have been considered by Joseon scholars as poor locations for someone of status.
Do not take my views as angry or argumentative. My opinion is only that you made an error in your assessment of Korea in your review. I would certainly be open to friendly debate if you wish to share your views.