A Review of Salvage Archaeology in Korea and a Joint Research and Excavation Plan for North Korean Cultural Heritage

남북 문화유산 조사 현황과 공동조사를 위한 제언

Choi, Jongtaik;Seong, Chuntaek

  • Received : 2018.12.28
  • Accepted : 2019.01.31
  • Published : 2019.06.30


Three Inter-Korea summits and a North Korea-USA summit that were previously unexpected provide a basis for an optimistic outlook for the future development of Korean archaeology. While Korean archaeology has witnessed a great advance since the mid-20th century, it also exhibits significant weaknesses in explaining cultural changes in prehistory and the early historical period in the Korean Peninsula due to the paucity of information on archaeological evidence of North Korea. Recent development of favorable conditions for research and excavations of North Korean cultural heritage could be a valuable opportunity for Korean archaeology to overcome the current adversity. Especially, given the expected large-scale SOC industrial project in North Korea, we need to prepare for the systematic research and excavation of archaeological materials. The present essay attempts to provide a suggestion for the joint archaeological expeditions to excavate and manage cultural resources in North Korea based on a critical review of previous salvage excavations in South Korea, such as those conducted before the construction of the Korean rapid transit railway system (KTX). We suggest that professional archaeologists should be included in the project and oversee the planning and design of road and railway constructions and other SOC projects in order to minimize the cost of trial and error processes that were well exemplified by the KTX salvage excavations. The Korean Archaeological Society and North Korean Archaeological Society may organize a common association that will supervise joint archaeological expeditions. Importantly, The Korean Archaeological Society and other related institutions should prepare to build an organization that conducts impending archaeological excavation in North Korea. While we likely face challenges and difficulties during the various stages of archaeological research and excavations in North Korea, only through thorough and systematic preparation can we avoid the destruction of valuable cultural heritage and find an opportunity for the further development of Korean archaeology.


Archaeological excavation;Cultural heritage;Cultural Resources Management;Salvage archaeology