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World Heritage Site

for World Heritage Travellers

Seowon, Confucian Academies of Korea

Seowon, Confucian Academies of Korea is part of the Tentative list of Republic of Korea in order to qualify for inclusion in the World Heritage List.

Click here for a short description of the site, as delivered by the state party.



  • Tentative

The coordinates shown for all tentative sites were produced as a community effort. They are not official and may change on inscription.

Community Reviews

Clyde Malta 09.05.17

Seowon, Confucian Academies of Korea (T) by Clyde

I visited 3 seowons in Andong in April 2017, namely Hwacheon Seowon, Dosan Seowon (already reviewed) and Byeongsan Seowon. The latter is strangely included in the core zone of the Hahoe WHS even though it is strictly speaking outside of the village.

Of the three seowons I visited, my favourite one was Byeongsan Seowon which is a formal Confucian academy founded in 1575. It was built with educational facilities for scholars and also for the younger generation and it also has a shrine for memorial services. In 1863, King Cheolgong bestowed a hanging board inscribed by the king's own hand with 4 hanggul characters that gave this seowon its name and making it one of the royally chartered private academies. In 1871, Daewongun, father of King Gojong, closed all but 47 private acadamies across the country. Byeongsan seowon was one of the 47.

Bongnyemun Gate, the main entrance, leads to the Mandaeru Pavilion and Ipgyodang, a lecture hall with dormitories called dongjae to the right and seojae to the left. Behind the dongjae stands Gojiksa, a residence for the academy caretaker. Behind Ipgyodang is Jangpangak, a storage space for wooden printing blocks and relics. Stairs lead to Naesammun (photo), the gate to Jongdeoksa shrine.

Byeongsan seowon is considered a model of architecture from the heydey of Confucian academies, built to be in harmony with the beautiful natural surroundings. Together with all the other seowons, I think they have potential to become WHS and it would make sense to remove the Byeongsan seowon from the core zone of the Hahoe WHS. I visited by taxi from Hahoe passing through a winding unpaved road to have more time than the 10 minutes offered if you visit by bus from Andong. However, road works are ongoing at the moment which will most probably pave the road by the end of this year.

Jarek Pokrzywnicki Poland 18.11.16

Seowon, Confucian Academies of Korea (T) by Jarek Pokrzywnicki

Byeongsan Seowon - easily located close to Hahoe Folk Village

Site visited in November, 2016. There are in fact 3 daily buses to Byeongsan from Andong. First morning bus (7.50 from nearby Andong Train Station is the most convenient if you want to see the village, it is the same bus that connects Andong with Hahoe, 46) it goes to Hahoe, then to Byeongsan Seowon and returns to Hahoe and heads to Andong.

Byeongsan Seowon itself looks recently restored- well maintained, covers relatively small area. All the buildings are described in Korean as well as in English (names and short explanation), easily visited, to see the building - half an hour should be enough, in fact the style of the buildings is similar to other Korean monuments. Don't miss the 400 years old restroom (having in mind the smell - it is still in use).

Between two sites (Byeongsan and Hahoe) there is a convenient hiking path - 4 km - be prepared to at least one hour walk as it is mountainous although on a map it looks straight forward. The road is well marked, although only in Korean. The hike is obvious from Byeongsan - the only option apart from returning the road that bus goes, although it is not shown on Google Maps nor described in Lonely Planet guidebook.

Kyle Magnuson Los Angeles, California - United States of America 08.07.16

Seowon, Confucian Academies of Korea (T) by Kyle Magnuson

I visited Sosu Seowon (Yeongju) on a warm, sunny day in June. As the first Confucian Academy established in the Joseon Dynasty, it holds special significance. Before its construction in 1542, there is evidence this site was formerly a Buddhist temple. This explains the somewhat unconventional layout of this particular Seowon.

A slight misfortune, when I visited Donam Seowon (Nonsan), it was pouring rain with only slight intervals. This fact, likely contributed to its emptiness and less pictures. I found Donam Seowon to be pleasant, but far smaller. Its authenticity could also (at least partially) be put into question based on Donam Seowon being moved from its original location.

Yeongju and Andong are the best locations to reach several of the Seowon sites included in this nomination. Dosan Seowon and Sosu Seowon are the most known and celebrated.

Because of a royal order of Heungseon Daewongun, father of King Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty, most Seowon were abolished and some were subsequently damaged or destroyed. However, despite the Anti-Confucian sentiment at the end of the Joseon Dynasty, the King's father spared 47 important Confucian Academies. All 9 of the Seowon included in this nomination are important academies that were spared, in part because they had produced many great scholars.

Sosu Seowon (6)

Based on the ICOMOS evaluation, ICOMOS has questions about why these nine Seowon in particular, why not more/less? In addition, there were concerns about not including the surrounding environment, which is an important element of each Seowon. The comparative analysis was viewed as insufficient by ICOMOS, which wanted clarification about the differences between Confucian Academies in Korea, China, and Japan. I am sure this nomination will be re-submitted in a couple years, I'd be surprised if it was not inscribed.

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