Ethical Performance
inside intelligence for responsible business


Korean pharma company forges artisanal legacy preservation path

October 2015

Until the early 1950s South Korea was a traditional agricultural society. That way of life was largely swept away by the Korean War and the rapid industrialization that followed.

Today, South Korea is a modern hi-tech nation manufacturing world-class industrial products. South Korea’s industrial revolution has created a society awash with modern technology where surviving traditional arts and crafts are rapidly disappearing as their last practitioners, a group of ageing individuals – “living national treasures,” pass away.

Korea’s Handok Pharmaceutical has introduced a programme called: “Health Keepers of Human Cultural Assets.” This is focused on the last surviving practitioners of particular traditional crafts.

Handok is providing free medical services for these people and developing programmes for these ageing masters to share their knowledge with the community and pass on their disappearing skills while this is still possible.

While an increasing effort is made to protect and restore Korea’s many tangible cultural assets, both at the government and nongovernmental level, far less is being done to care for human cultural assets.

Human cultural assets refer to artists and practitioners who are officially recognized as possessing skills in one of the 108 categories of traditional cultural arts that are registered as Important Intangible Cultural Assets. No more than 200 of these people still survive.
In recent years, out of 53 human cultural assets in the field of traditional Korean crafts, 22 artisans have already died.

Noting that “living treasures are in a blind spot for receiving sufficient support,” and concluding that there is an “urgency to protect and look after human cultural assets so that they can actively foster younger generations and pass down their skills,” Handok, is working to make sure remaining human cultural assets stay healthy and well until their final days.

Handok’s campaign also involves sharing Important Intangible Cultural Assets with the community. Participants in one programme show off their final creations after learning how to make the famous royal court cuisine from one of the last practitioners.

Under the campaign entitled “Health Keepers of Human Cultural Assets,” Handok began to provide free biannual medical check-ups for human cultural assets in Korea aged 50 to 80, in conjunction with 11 hospitals across the country and the government’s Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA).

The company said it found that many human cultural assets had not been able to visit hospitals for regular check-ups for financial reasons. 

Handok Pharmaceutical | Asia | legacy


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