On June 18, 2013, the 11th International Advisory Committee (IAC) of the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme decided to list the archives of Saemaul Undong from the 1970s on the Memory of the World Register. At the meeting, IAC stated that “the movement became the cornerstone of Korea’s rapid growth from a poor country to one of the world’s top ten economic powers and a precious asset to the history of mankind.” It added that “since it gives the whole picture of how successfully the movement was carried out to modernize 34,000 selected rural villages across the nation, the archives are valuable resources to developing countries and international development agencies who seek to eliminate poverty and modernize rural areas.”
UNESCO’s Memory of the World program is an international initiative launched to fully preserve and protect the world’s documentary heritage for all, as it belongs to all, so as to hand it down to future generations. The mission of the Memory of the World Program is to preserve the cultural mores and practicalities of the world’s documentary heritage, and facilitate universal access without hindrance. UNESCO established the Memory of the World Program in 1992. Impetus came originally from a growing awareness for the need to preserve and utilize important documentary heritage in various parts of the world that are in parlous states of preservation or in danger of vanishing forever by preparing a list of heritage items and searching for effective means of preservation. As of June 2013, the Memory of the World Register had placed 102 countries, 5 organizations, and 299 documentary items of significance on the Register. The Republic of Korea has 11 documentary heritage items listed on the Memory of the World Register, ranking 4th in the world and 1st in the Asia Pacific region. A set of criteria is utilized in examining each of the nominations, including time, place, people, subject and theme, form and style, social, spiritual, and community significance, rarity, integrity, threat, et cetera, and valuable global items that have had important influences on world history or have made significant contribution in understanding the world at certain points in the history of humankind are selected to be listed on the Memory of the World Register.