Jikji is inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List!

The idea of registering Jikji on UNESCO’s World Heritage List was first suggested at the UNESCO Chungbuk Association’s academic seminar “UNESCO and Early Printing Culture” in 1996. Members reached the agreement that Cheongju is a city of early printing culture and that Jikji is of outstanding universal value, deserving UNESCO World Heritage status.

Upon the agreement, Cheongju, the Cheongju Early Printing Museum, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO, and the UNESCO Chungbuk Association submitted Jikji to the Fifth Meeting of the International Advisory Committee of the Memory of the World Program, held at Cheongju from June 27 to 29 in 2001. Among 42 nominations from 23 countries, Jikji was one of the 21 granted by the committee. Jikji was inscribed on the Memory of the World Register on September 4, 2001.

UNESCO’s Memory of the World (MoW) Program updates its list every two years since its establishment in 1993 to protect world documentary heritage. The Memory of the World Register selection criteria include authenticity, historical significance in terms of time, place, people, and subject/theme, form and style, social significance, as well as comparative criteria, such as uniqueness/rarity and condition.

As of 2018, 432 documentary heritage items from 124 countries are inscribed on the MoW Register. Korea has 16 inscriptions, including Jikji, printing woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana, the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty, and the Diaries of the Royal Secretariat.

Inscriptions on the Memory of the World Register brings benefits, such as assistance in establishing an institution for preserving and representing the heritage, UNESCO’s technical support for its management and conservation, and the use of the UNESCO badge and ongoing promotion on the UNESCO website.


Bendik Rugaas in Norway International Library took on the Chairman in the 5th Cheongju UNESCO Advisory Committee Meeting held in Cheongju, following the 4th Review Meeting, from 27th to 29th in JUN 2001. We interviewed with Bendik Rugaas and heard about the background and screening process of registering Jikji in the World Registered Legacy.

Officer of Cheongju : Can you tell me your impression of the results and Cheongju?
Bendik Rugaas : We could get very good results such as selecting 21 legacies through the meeting in Cheongju where the oldest extant movable metal type printed Book in the world was born. I also confirmed that the future of Cheongju, the print-cultural city, and world registered legacy are very bright when I saw lots of children visiting the Early Printing Museum of Cheongju.

Officer of Cheongju : In order to be selected to the World Registered Legacy, they should pass a few major selection bases such as the effects and social values. Which bases did Jikji pass?
Bendik Rugaas : Jikji is the oldest existing Metal Printed Book. It has influenced on human beings and spread out, so it was recognized to be the most influencable legacy. Additionally, the rarity was mainly considered in selecting it, because there is only one volume in France right now.

Officer of Cheongju : I heard that Jikji and Gutenberg’s Bible were selected in this screening simultaneously.
Bendik Rugaas : Jikji and Geternberg’s Bible are the oldest existing eastern and western Metal Printed Books, respectively. They have changed human beings’ recording cultures completely. UNESCO Advisory Meeting recommended them to be registered under the spirit of The Memory of The World. After going back to UNESCO Headquarter, I will try to seek for the ways that can spread and preserve the old printing cultures.