• Kyodo

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About five North Korean officials are expected to visit Japan in July to study techniques for preserving cultural assets, a UNESCO goodwill ambassador said.

Japanese painter Ikuo Hirayama, an envoy of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said he hopes the move will help preserve the Koguryo tombs, which feature colorful 1,500-year-old murals, on the outskirts of Pyongyang.

Hirayama, who has just returned from a six-day trip to North Korea, said he has invited the reclusive country to send officials to Japan to learn about preservation at museums and research facilities in Kyoto and Nara prefectures.

Because North Korea has agreed to the idea, issuing visas for the officials is not expected to be a problem, despite the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The visit is expected to be the first by the communist country’s cultural affairs officials.

UNESCO is planning to hold an exhibition in July in Tokyo featuring Koguryo culture, including drawings by Hirayama, as part of efforts to encourage Pyongyang to register the tombs with the UNESCO World Heritage program.

The Koguryo complex dates back to the Three Kingdoms Period (57 B.C. to 668 A.D.). During that time, Koguryo was the most powerful kingdom on the Korean Peninsula.

The complex is said to consist of about 80 mounds, with about 20 containing depictions of religious figures.

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