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Tourism and Sustainability in the Evaluation of World Heritage Sites, 1980–2010

Sustainability 2016, 8(3), 258;

World Heritage Site Designation Impacts on a Historic Village: A Case Study on Residents’ Perceptions of Hahoe Village (Korea)
Department of Traditional Landscape Architecture, Korea National University of Cultural Heritage, 367 Baekjemun-ro, Gyuam-myeon, Buyeo-gun, Chungcheongnam-do 33115, Korea
Academic Editor: Victor T. King
Received: 28 January 2016 / Accepted: 4 March 2016 / Published: 10 March 2016


This study examines the relationship between World Heritage Site (WHS) designation and the community sustainability of a historic village, focusing on Hahoe Village, Korea, which was inscribed in 2010. It examines residents’ perceptions of increasing tourism at Hahoe Village by adopting a questionnaire and using an interview as research methods. This study examined both the positive and negative impacts that Hahoe Village’s WHS designation has had on its sustainability. Of all of the impacts examined in this research, the three most noteworthy issues are identified: (1) the acceleration of the change of the village’s industrial base and the influx of strangers; (2) the degradation of quality of life (in the physical aspects) caused by increasing tourism; and (3) the collision predicated by the tension between conserving the village’s historic environments and developing tourism. In conclusion, the WHS designation impacts on Hahoe Village, which local residents perceived, have both positive and negative aspects. WHS designation needs to be accompanied by a management plan that is more concerned about the impact from tourism after the designation. In this context, Hahoe Village must not only have a comprehensive preservation plan that balances with the demand for tourism development, but also secure the village’s community sustainability as a living place other than a tourist destination.
heritage tourism; historic village; residents’ perception; community sustainability; sustainable management; tourism development; World Heritage Site

1. Introduction

Since its establishment in 1972, the “Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (also known as World Heritage Convention (WHC))” has carried its weight assiduously and has saved many heritage sites from the danger of destruction. However, sometimes, the WHC has backfired. In most cases, World Heritage Site (WHS) designation showed results of increasing tourism [1,2], and these results brought about unintended hazards to designated sites. Nevertheless, at the same time, these results stimulate economic growth in the local community [3,4,5,6]. Increasing tourism in World Heritage Sites is “a double-edged sword” [7], which is accompanied by both economic benefits and threats to the fabric of the sites. Thus, for future management, it is essential to understand what benefits and threats would occur by increasing tourism after WHS designation.
Regardless of WHS designation, historic villages are basically the villages’ residents’ places for their daily lives. The value of historic villages is formed by reflecting residents’ daily lives, and for securing community sustainability, it is material to keep residents’ daily lives, including lifestyles, customs, traditions and other living conditions. Thus, residents’ perceptions and ideas about their lives are a prerequisite for historic villages’ future management and development. In addition, managers and planners can assess benefits and threats today based on residents’ perceptions and ideas [8]. In this context, this research aims to determine the local residents’ perceptional changes effectuated by WHS designation, whose impacts have caused increasing tourism to Hahoe Village in Korea.

1.1. Community Sustainability of Historic Villages

Since 1987, when the World Commission on Environment and Development published “Our Common Future (also known as the Brundtland Report),” sustainability has been a prevalent concept in the field related to environmental management [9]. The definition of sustainability is debated in many ways [10], but the concept is not defined completely yet, especially related to historic environments, World Heritage and communities [11,12].
Sustainability means successful managing of limited resources in accord with human needs [13]. According to James [11], the definition of community sustainability is “the long-term durability of a community as it negotiates changing practices and meaning across all the domains of culture, politics, economics, and ecology” (p. 24). Thus, the community sustainability of historic villages can be explained as securing long-term durability for maintaining the communities’ historical meaning and values dealing with various changes in all its bearings occurring in the villages.
As a living place, a historic village changes continually, reflecting resident’s lives and actions over time [14]. The morphology of a historic village today is a result of layering changes caused by various human action; therefore, any village on Earth cannot maintain the same morphology from the past, to the present and into the future. In this context, the concept of community sustainability of historic villages does not mean maintaining morphologically-fixed village environments. The notion of community sustainability therefore takes into consideration the changing morphology of any village environment.
The concept of the community sustainability of historic villages means securing the sustainability of a village’s historic value, whether these entail its economic, socio-cultural and environmental aspects, while the villages’ environments change. In other words, it means preventing the loss of a village’s value and, furthermore, managing to sustain its value and minimize change, even while a village changes continually as a living heritage site. For successful sustainable management of historic villages, human action can be perceived, predicted and managed to minimize its impacts on a village’s historic environments. The historic environments today of Hahoe Village, for example, have been mainly composed through human action, such as Korean geomancy, clan culture, filial piety culture based on Neo-Confucianism, farming culture [15] and WHS designation. Additionally, it is arguable that if these factors can be predicted and managed, such historic environments will be sustainable.

1.2. Residents’ Perceptions

There are many stakeholders for human action to affect historic environments, such as local residents, tourists, governments and non-governmental organizations. In the case of village environments like Hahoe Village, local residents are the most significant stakeholders, because they are principal agents of maintaining village culture through the generations and owners of village properties. Local residents are the people directly involved in managing their villages’ environments, so their perceptions could affect their behaviors for future management and development of their villages. Pierce [16] makes reference to the importance of residents’ perceptions to affect future policy, planning, management and development. Many other scholars have also proven that the local community is the major stakeholder for future development and management of their living environments [8,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38]. Thus, understanding local residents’ perceptions is a top priority for the community sustainability of historic villages. In this context, this study aims to investigate the residents’ perceptions of the way that WHS designation impacts Hahoe Village and to identify how the WHS designation impacts the sustainability and future management of this village’s historic environments.

2. Materials and Methods

2.1. A Case Study: Hahoe Village

Hahoe Village is a typical rural farm village located in the southeastern part of the Korean Peninsula, as shown in Figure 1. It is well known for its beautiful scenery, which is composed of the unique layout of the village and a betrenched meandering stream. Amidst its beautiful scenery, the village contains well-preserved historic buildings and structures, which represent the traditional lifestyle of the Joseon period (1392–1897). The most significant characteristic of Hahoe Village is that it maintains its tradition as a clan village, dominated by the Pungsan Ryu family. For these reasons, Hahoe Village was first designated as a national heritage site in 1984, and in succession, it was designated as a WHS in 2010, together with Yangdong Village under the title “Historic Villages of Korea,” as “the oldest and most excellent example of [a] clan village, a form of settlement that characterized the Joseon period” [39] (p. 162).
The basic elements of Hahoe Village’s historic environments are traditional buildings, agricultural fields and natural elements, such as a streams, hills and plants, which surround the village. In addition, as a living heritage site, it includes not only morphological elements, but also spiritual elements, such as mutual cooperation for farming and village management based on clan culture. Other intangible elements regarding cultural events, such as traditional Talchum (mask dance) and Jwibulnori (fireworks), are also important elements of Hahoe Village’s historic environments. These elements are mostly established based on the village’s main industry, which is agriculture. Therefore, agriculture is one of the key factors to maintain the historic environments of Hahoe Village. The problem is that the village’s industrial base is changing from agriculture to tourism. The recognition that Hahoe Village has received on account of its heritage designation has vitalized the village’s tourism industry. Consequently, the agricultural industry has collapsed, and tourism has started to become the village’s main industry.
Heritage designation is a significant human action that can influence the characteristics and shapes of historic environments. Moreover, the WHS designation might be the most influential designation system because WHS means that the heritage’s universal value of being a designated site is guaranteed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the most internationally reputable organization. In reality, most WHSs, regardless of natural or cultural heritage, are faced with increasing tourists after WHS designation [40,41,42]. Like other WHSs, Hahoe Village faced increasing tourists after its WHS designation. Hahoe Village’s number of visitors had stagnated around 800,000 until 2009, but the number rapidly increased to over one million in the year of WHS designation. Hahoe Village’s annual number of visitors is shown in Figure 2.
As many cases, including Hahoe Village, have shown, the title WHS is linked closely to tourism, even though the primary purpose of WHC does not intend it. The preferential purpose of WHC is to protect the heritage value of the sites by securing their sustainability. However, in many cases, increasing tourists caused by WHS designation negatively affect the historic environment sustainability of designated sites. According to UNESCO, tourism is the second most reported threat to the World Heritage sites, next to pressure from development [44]. However, there is a reason to believe that increased visitation can not only have a negative effect, but also increased visitors instigate the financial expansion of local communities. The financial expansion of local communities consequentially supports the economic resources for heritage site conservation and management [45] (p. 318). In addition, in the case of Hahoe Village, with an entrance fee system, the increasing number of visitors brings economic benefits, which directly protect the village’s historic environments. The entrance fee is collected by the city of Andong, and 40 percent of the total entrance fee earning is allocated as an operational expense to the Hahoe Village Preservation Society (HVPS). The allocation trend of annual entrance fee earning is shown in Figure 3. HVPS was established in 1992 as a consultative body of residents for gathering residents’ opinions, administering the village’s environments, and improving the local community’s quality of life. HVPS is the advanced type of the previous family conferences of the clan village. Government funds for new projects for restoration and tourism development of the village are another example of the economic benefits of WHS designation. The Korean government, for instance, provided government funds of KRW 27 hundred million (USD 25 million) to Hahoe Village for preparation and management of WHS designation between 2003 and 2012 (Table 1).
One of the notable points is that a village’s historic environments are different from other heritage sites, because a village’s environments are not only a legacy of the past, but also are still a living place for local residents of the present. In other words, a village’s historic environments are its living heritage.
Previous World Heritage studies have tended to focus on tourists, tourism development and visitor management [30]. One of the significant changes from WHS designation is the development of a tourism industry, so the tendency of the previous studies focusing on the perspectives of tourists and visitors is reasonable. However, in the case of historic villages as living heritage sites, as stated above, local residents are the most significant stakeholders for the future management and development of the villages’ historic environments. The changes that occurred since WHS designation are the result of a passive process based on increasing the number of tourists and an active process of the reaction by the local people. UNESCO also mentions the importance of local communities’ participation for managing heritage [47] (pp. 71–72). Especially, because of the characteristic of being a clan village, most elements of Hahoe Village’s historic environments are owned, managed and improved by local residents (and HVPSs, which are a local residents’ association). This means that local residents are the most important agents for securing the sustainability of the village’s historic environments. For this reason, this research tries to examine the perceptions of local residents with respect to how they perceive the influence of the WHS designation of their village.

2.2. Study Methods

A questionnaire was used as a major research method for this study, with an interview as a subsidiary tool to gather additional information. As stated above, studies focusing on local residents in World Heritage studies are quite rare; thus, there are no firmly-established research methods for this type of study. However, some papers have shown that some researchers from tourism studies regarding residents’ perceptions have commonly used questionnaires and interviews for gathering data methods. Therefore, this study is modeled after these research methods. The method of using interviews is the best to collect detailed data of residents’ perceptions. However, interviews may be limiting, because a historic village’s local residents are generally ordinary people and, therefore, do not have the professional knowledge of sustainability, environments and WHS issues [10] (p. 292). For this reason, the researcher decided to limit the use of interviews only to residents who work for the village’s management and preservation.
The questionnaire contained 36 items to measure residents’ perceptions regarding the WHS designation’s impacts on Hahoe Village. The questions were adapted from a comprehensive review of existing studies (e.g., [8,17,19,20,21,29,30,33,34,35,38]).
The number of administratively registered residents of the Hahoe Village is 235 (as of 2013), but the number of residents that, in reality, are living in the village is under 100, according to HVPS’s officer. The number of real residents in Hahoe Village was too small, and the number of residents who were able to answer was much smaller because of their aging and educational conditions. More than 60 residents were personally contacted, and 42 residents finally answered the questionnaire. Respondents consisted of 28 males (66.7%) and 14 females (33.3%). Their ages ranged from 30 and over, with 47.6% being 60 and over and 28.6% being 50–59. A total of 61.9% indicated that they already either worked or were involved with Hahoe Village’s tourism industry. This percentage of participation is more than two times that of the percentage who reported non-involvement in tourist-related businesses (28.6%). The demographic characteristics of survey respondents are presented in Table 2.
A total of 12 respondents served as interviewees. One interviewee has been working as a representative of HVPS; two others have been working for Hahoe Village Management Office (government employees); and the others are owners of government-designated heritage facilities. The field survey for collecting data was conducted in the village during July 2014. The collected data from the questionnaire were analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences Version 22.

3. Results

For verifying residents’ perceptions toward the impacts of WHS designation, local residents were asked to answer 24 questions. The result of the questions regarding residents’ perceptions toward the impacts WHS designation are shown in Table 3. Twelve additional questions were asked to discover residents’ satisfaction with the village’s quality of life and perceptions toward future tourism development and preservation. The results of additional questions are shown in Table 4. Of all of the perceptions verified in the research, the three noteworthy issues discussed regard sustainability of the village’s historic environments, such as: (1) the acceleration of the change of the village’s industrial base and the influx of strangers; (2) the degradation of the quality of life (in the physical aspects) based on increasing tourism; and (3) the collision predicated by the tension between conserving the historic environments and developing tourism.

4. Discussion

4.1. The Acceleration of the Change of the Industrial Base of Hahoe Village and the Influx of Non-Locals

Of the questionnaire respondents, 61.9% think that WHS designation strongly increased employment opportunities in their community, while 28.5% disagreed with this statement. Of the respondents, 78.1% deem that tourism has already become the major industry in Hahoe Village, and 80.9% of respondents want to join the tourism industry. Additionally, more respondents (38.2%) believe that WHS designation encourages residents to join the tourism industry than those who disagree (33.3%) with this statement. All interviewees believed that tourism-related business has replaced Hahoe Village’s previous industrial base, and most new employment opportunities are based on the tourism industry. The case of accelerating the change of the industrial base of a historic village after WHS designation can be found in other WHS historic villages. Takamitsu [30], for example, explains that there was a change of the industrial base from agriculture and forestry to tourism after WHS designation at Shirakawa-mura, which is one of Japan’s historic villages inscribed on the World Heritage List (WHL) in 1995. He argues the reason for this situation is that tourism is more stable and less risky than agriculture and forestry [30]. Another example is Hawraman Village in Iran, inscribed on the WHL in 2007 [48]. Moreover, increasing tourism of WHS designation accelerated the change of the industrial base, because it induced some non-locals to open tourist-related businesses, such as accommodations and restaurants, inside the village.
The change of the industrial base and the influx of non-locals are fatal for agriculture-based clan villages’ historic environments. One important element that composed the village’s historic environments is mutual cooperation between relatives in economic activities (farming) and community management. The importance of mutual cooperation in a village’s historic environments can best be described by the Korean term “Maul,” which is generally translated as “village” in English. According to Han [49], the concept of Maul is defined as:
The term Maul originated from “Moul” or “Modul” which means an assembly. People lived together, and formed a group. As a group, they had mutual cooperation. They called their place for this mutual cooperation a Maul. In Korean society, this image of mutual cooperation was reflected everywhere in the Maul, and the place of Maul provided the living space for settlers. However, most Mauls changed and disbanded rapidly during modernization. In this process, the Mauls lost their original form and spirit.
(p. 19)
As stated in Han’s explanation, the Korean term Maul means the living place fostering mutual cooperation inside a village. Thus, mutual cooperation between village members affected every historic element of their village’s historic environments. This mutual cooperation systematically operated in times past, because Korean historic villages were clan villages composed of relatives. For example, farming could not be accomplished by one person alone. Thus, mutual cooperation was essential to maintain the agricultural industry. Samsindang in Hahoe Village is one example of historic elements reflected and formed by the village’s tradition of mutual cooperation (Figure 4). Samsindang is a zelkova tree over 600 years old located in the center of the village. Because the tree was the place for the folk religion, animism, local residents have performed religious rites to pray for peace, good health and a bumper harvest two times every year: on the first day of the year and the day of the first full moon of the year. These rites were one of the village’s most important events as an element of the village tradition in which every member of the village would participate and cooperate. Thus, for conserving such kinds of historic environments of the village, the Samsindang tree and the rites tradition, a village’s culture based on mutual cooperation should be maintained.
Another problem regarding acceleration of the change of the industrial base and the influx of non-locals was discovered through interviews that the village shows clear signs of a doughnut phenomenon, which commonly occurs in a large city’s downtown area. This phenomenon may result from these three reasons: (1) decreasing village population because of aging and migration; (2) increasing non-local employees in the village’s tourism industry, such as shops and restaurants; and (3) the emergence of registered residents who own properties in the village for the purpose of tourism facilities, but do not live there in reality. Because of this phenomenon, a large gap between the number of registered residents and actual residents was discovered during the field survey. The doughnut phenomenon of Hahoe Village would weaken community solidarity and, finally, would raise a problem of sustainability for the village’s historic environments.

4.2. The Degradation of the Quality of Life (in the Physical Aspects) Based on Increasing Tourism

The concept of quality of life is generally defined as an overall evaluation of someone’s life conditions, experiences and satisfaction [36]. The concept is still vague, although many scholars tried to define it. However, one notable common fact is that most scholars explained the quality of life using perceptions and feelings [50]. According to Ferriss [51], the notion of quality of life includes both physical aspects, such as the level of living and environmental level, and emotional aspects, such as satisfaction and happiness from a social system. Hagerty et al. [52] also identified the components of the quality of life analogously with Ferriss, such as emotional and material well-being, feeling from society, health and safety. For this research, quality of life was identified using both physical aspects, such as residents’ perceptions for physical environmental changes, and emotional aspects, such as residents’ emotional satisfaction and happiness from the social system. For assessing the emotional aspect of quality of life, four questions, shown in Table 4, were used. Then, answers were analyzed combined with other residents’ perceptions about WHS designation impacts for assessing physical aspects of the quality of life.
The questionnaire results indicated that local residents perceived that WHS designation has no positive impacts on their quality of life, except for improving the village’s fire protection. More than 60% of questionnaire respondents did not think that WHS designation increased land and housing prices nor the cost of living in Hahoe Village. In addition, most respondents thought that crime and robberies did not increase after WHS designation. Regarding the improvement of environmental safety, almost half of the respondents were neutral about the quality of police protection, while half of the respondents agreed that the quality of fire protection improved. However, local residents perceived that there were negative impacts of WHS designation on their quality of life regarding aspects affected by increasing tourism, such as traffic congestion, littering, noise pollution, overcrowding and invasion of privacy.

4.2.1. Impacts of Increasing Tourism on Residents’ Quality of Life

Of the respondents, 65% noted that WHS designation caused congested traffic conditions. Furthermore, 76.2% reported an increase in littering after WHS designation. Of the respondents, 52.3% agreed that noise pollution increased after 2010. In addition, a majority of residents (61.9%) agreed that WHS designation was one reason for more overcrowding. Furthermore, a sizeable percentage of respondents (80.9%) agreed that invasion of privacy increased after WHS designation, and all interviewees also mentioned increased invasion of privacy. Moreover, even though WHS designation looks very helpful for heritage restoration, a majority of respondents (47.6%) perceived that WHS designation did not increase the availability of repair or reconstruction.
These perceptions would make it seem that WHS designation brings unsustainable results for a village’s historic environments from an environmental standpoint. Traffic congestion, littering, noise, overcrowding and privacy invasion are major factors affecting residents’ quality of life. In the case of Hahoe Village, WHS designation accelerated the decline in quality of life. However, these are not only problems caused by WHS designation. Many similar problems are reported in the process of tourism invigoration in other historic villages [24,25,30,48,53,54].
Of these factors assessed by the survey, privacy invasion might be the most significant problem that affected residents’ lives, in addition to tourism. The privacy invasion caused by increasing tourism is because of tourists’ lack of recognition that Hahoe Village is a living place for residents and the misunderstanding of the village as an outdoor museum. Tourists’ visits to these types of heritage sites are commonly “based on nostalgia for the past and the desire to experience diverse [authentic]” [55] (p. 49) historic environments. To meet their desires of nostalgia and authenticity, tourists need to invade residents’ private areas, like an outdoor museum. They might think that residents’ lives are like the contents of the exhibition of the village. Jimura mentions that similar privacy invasions occurred in Shirakawa-mura after WHS designation [30]. He argues that this is because of the structure of the traditional architecture, wherein it is hard to divide private and public spaces and tourists’ attitudes that they believe they can enter wherever [30] (p. 293). In the case of Hahoe Village, the private and public spaces are divided clearly by a wall. Thus, the misunderstanding of WHS as an outdoor museum and tourists’ attitudes are primarily aspects of privacy invasion. The problem is that increasing privacy invasion causes residents to close off their private areas even more, and this interrupts the possibility that tourists will feel nostalgia and authenticity from the village’s historic environments.

4.2.2. WHS Designation and Satisfaction with Quality of Life

As stated above, residents’ perceptions regarding WHS designation impacts on increasing tourism is that WHS designation has aggravated many residents’ perceptions about their quality of life in Hahoe Village. It seems that the negative impacts are greater than positive ones. Nevertheless, one notable aspect is that the majority of respondents (65%) feel proud of WHS designation of their living place. In addition, 55% of respondents think that their village is a good place to live. Most respondents (85%) mention that they will live in Hahoe Village for the rest of their lives.
One interviewee notes that this situation is because Hahoe Village is still maintained as a clan village, and the village’s young generations are already migrating to other urban areas; thus, the village’s population structure is mostly comprised of an aging population. In practice, 67% of registered residents are still in the clan of the Pungsan Ryu family [43]. If we recalculate the proportion of the Pungsan Ryu family using the actual number of residents, the percentage might be higher.
Although the residential environment of Hahoe Village is perceived as worsening after WHS designation, the residents’ pride for their living place as having WHS designation is based on a brand effect of WHS. WHS’s brand effect, which is recognized for its universal value by the internationally reputable organization, is not only attractive to tourists, but also to residents. Increasing pride of local residents after WHS designation of their living place is a common attribute that appears in many WHSs [30,56,57]. According to Graeme Evans, for example, the result of a questionnaire targeting residents of Old Quebec district shows that 44% of respondents are proud to live in a WHS [57] (p. 133).
The pride in their own living place is one of the important elements in sustaining the village’s historic environments. In the case of intangible elements of the village’s historic environments, most of them are unrecorded, orally transmitted or rarely practiced; thus, conservation is difficult. Therefore, local residents who learned these traditions and customs through experiences since childhood are the key to maintaining the intangible parts of the village’s historic environments. WHS designation improves residents’ pride in their village, which is one of the main reasons for remaining in their village.
For the physical aspects, residents perceived that the level of their quality of life declined. Nevertheless, this circumstance of negative perceptions of the physical aspects was not affected by the emotional aspect of their quality of life. However, according to previous research about the quality of life, the physical aspects of the quality of life are closely connected to the emotional aspects [51,52]. If this circumstance of residents’ negative perceptions in the physical aspects of the quality of life is prolonged, it can negatively influence the emotional aspects of the quality of life. Thus, for securing community sustainability, managers and planners need to consider improving this circumstance of residents’ negative perceptions in the physical aspects.

4.3. The Collision Predicated by the Tension between Conserving the Historic Environments and Developing Tourism

Of the respondents, 94.8% think that Hahoe Village needs more acts of preservation. Most interviewees mentioned a deficiency in preservation acts. They also believed that HVPS’s preservation-related activities were not equitably progressed. Many places need preservation-related activities for maintaining their heritage value, but efforts cannot be equally distributed. Furthermore, the survey result shows that Hahoe Village’s local residents’ demand for tourism development is as high as their demand for preservation. All respondents agree that tourism development is needed more in Hahoe Village.
According to local residents’ perceptions, WHS designation did not encourage the residents to join the tourism industry. However, all respondents, whether they participate in the tourism industry or not, perceived the need for tourism development, so this may be interpreted as residents believing that tourism is an essential element for the village’s future. This perception might also be based on residents’ needs for tourism facilities to accommodate increasing visitors after WHS designation.
The compatibility of tourism development and historic environments’ conservation is not yet theoretically proven. In many historic places, some tourism development-related activities directly influence the loss of village environments’ physical values. The agricultural field near Hahoe Village, for example, became parking lots even, though the agricultural field near the village is one of many important composite elements of the village’s historic environments. Moreover, increasing tourism based on tourism development damages the inscape of the village’s historic environments. In the case of Hahoe Village, many tourism facilities, such as lodging, shops and restaurants, were jumbled up close together inside the village because of increased tourism after its registration as a national heritage site in 1984. These tourism facilities damaged the village’s authentic environments. When the village started preparation for WHS designation, local residents felt the need to purify the village’s environment. The purification progressed through cooperation with the government. The government built the tourist complex outside the village to move the tourist facilities jumbled inside the village. The village seemed to restore its inscape as a living heritage through this effort. However, tourism facilities sprung up again after WHS designation because of increasing tourism. Today, these facilities directly damage the village’s historic environments both internally and physically. Furthermore, these facilities are the main reason for conflict between residents who moved out of their businesses and into the tourist complex outside the village and residents who started their own businesses newly inside the village. In practice, several interviewees were dissatisfied with this situation.
The main reason for tourism development is economic opportunities for local communities. Rapidly increasing tourism and excessive development, however, are sometimes injurious to heritage value. Shackley [1] describes the problems caused by the tourism impacts on WHS designation as:
Designation of a WHS implies change, increased visitor numbers, more traders, [and] governments seeking to enhance the site by over-restoration and damage to landscape by intrusive development such as landscaping or mineral extraction. Large visitor numbers create problems; crowding can lead to frustration and thus to vandalism. There need to be mechanisms for clearing litter, repairing paths, and considering site ecology as well as the welfare of visitors.
(pp. 7–8)
For this reason, Bandarin explains tourism as “a double-edged sword, which on one hand confers economic benefits…but on the other, places stress on the fabric of destinations and the communities who live in them” [56] (p. v). Orbasli [7] determines the side effects of tourist pressure based on increasing tourism at heritage sites, such as overcrowding, traffic and parking pressure, changes to ownership patterns and changing commerce (pp. 58–66). However, he also remarks that “tourism is potentially an important catalyst for the safeguarding of historic fabric and the initiation of conservation,” because tourists’ perception can be a reason for increasing local interests [58] (p. 42). Not only economic opportunities, but also awareness of heritage, reuse of redundancies and interpreting the historic image can be additional advantages of tourism development for a historic village.
Additionally, tourism development does not just have negative impacts on a village’s historic environments. Tourism development causes various environmental problems. These environmental problems also appear in Hahoe Village today. These problems, however, do not establish the negative image of tourism for the local residents in Hahoe Village, so all respondents of the survey agreed on the need for tourism development in the village.

5. Conclusions

As a result of the survey regarding residents’ perceptions of WHS designation impacts, most residents perceived that Hahoe Village’s historic environments faced numerous changes after WHS designation. During preparations for WHS designation, various plans for preservation were established and examined. Diverse projects were proposed, and many government funds were deployed for tourism development and preservation.
In the case of Hahoe Village, rising investment, whether funds were for preservation or tourism development, was one of the advantages for managing historic environments that resulted from WHS designation. Most respondents to the questionnaire, however, did not recognize the increase in investment, even though many government funds were deployed before and after WHS designation. This was because most funds were from the government, and they were used in small chunks over 10 years. Furthermore, it can be interpreted that Hahoe Village’s historic environments were comparatively safer from excessive investment of private capital, regarding WHS designation. In addition, most respondents perceived that repair and reconstruction opportunities did not increase after WHS designation, even though many government funds were deployed, and some interviewees had a negative opinion about unfair preservation acts. In this regard, it is necessary to effectively use government funds for future preservation and tourism development acts.
One problem WHSs face is a high level of tourist traffic. However, the question regarding World Heritage as an effective tool for sustainable management of historic villages cannot be verified by only its tourism impacts, because “negative impacts of increasing tourism at most WHSs pale into insignificance when considered against natural conservation problems, although visitor pressure can exacerbate such issues” [59] (p. 203). In the case of historic environments, and especially historic villages’, however, human actions can be the most influential element of change, as stated earlier. A village’s historic environments includes not only physical elements, but also intangible elements that are reflected in the history of local residents’ lived experiences. These intangible elements are more sensitive to change, more vulnerable to time and more difficult to transmit than physical environments, so careful concern for management is required. In this aspect of historic environments, one limitation of the WHS designation system becomes evident, which is that the WHS designation system can only consider nominations for immovable properties [60]. WHS designation only affects tangible heritage, which cannot be moved to another place. Since 1997, UNESCO has operated another treaty, under the title “Proclamation of Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” for protecting intangible heritages in addition to WHC [61]. In the case of historic villages, however, heritage values are based on not only tangible, but also intangible elements; therefore, WHS designation needs an integrated management considering both elements. Intangible elements of historic villages, however, cannot be characterized as immovable properties, even though these elements are essential for maintaining heritage value. Some studies explore the negative impacts of WHS designation on intangible heritage in the designated site [62,63]. Therefore, approaches to an expanded concept of heritage that includes both tangible and intangible elements is necessary for preserving historic villages. In the case of Hahoe Village, the survey results verified that WHS designation diversely influenced the village’s environment and residents’ lives. These impacts, however, were not perceived as momentous for the quality of residents’ lives and changes. Therefore, WHS designation seems to not be a critical cause for intangible elements of the village’s historic environments.
The economic impacts of increasing tourism on local communities is not intended by the WHS designation system, even though the impact is the biggest motivation for designation application by most member states of the WHC. The originally intended purposes of WHS were (1) heightening recognition of locals and international concern for heritage sites; (2) sharing technologies with the international community for better preservation and management; (3) establishing sustainable management plans to maintain heritage values; and (4) providing emergency assistance when sites are in danger [8]. With WHS designation, the stakeholders in village’s management, such as local residents, HVPS and local government, acquired the managing technologies through international exchange with similarly-characterized WHS historic villages.
Even though every site on the WHL is designated with the same title and its values are explained largely using one term “outstanding universal value,” every WHS is different in its aspects, particularly in their impacts on the site. The results of this research are only applicable for Hahoe Village, considering the village’s unique characteristics. Every site needs to apply site-specific approaches for preservation. However, there are some sites that are not the same, but have similar characteristics, and they can share their own experiences and technologies with each other through international exchange. Hahoe Village, for instance, is unique from Shirakawa-mura, but largely these two villages share common characteristics, such as being rural farm villages in East Asia and being managed by village preservation societies composed of local residents. After WHS designation, Hahoe Village inherited Shirakawa-mura’s management technologies for handling the changes after WHS designation through international exchange [64] (pp. 109–114). This sharing system can be helpful for preserving heritage values of WHS, so international exchange can be one of many significant advantages of WHS designation for sustainable management of historic villages.
Adapting a questionnaire as a major data gathering method pertaining to the village circumstance of a small number of actual living residents has shown evident limits. For better, detailed understanding of residents’ perceptions, researchers need to use in-depth interviews instead of a questionnaire.
This article has examined the residents’ perceptions regarding the relationships between increasing tourism impacts of WHS designation, local residents’ lives and future demands for development and preservation within the village’s historic environments discourse. The three most noticeable issues have been verified: (1) the acceleration of the change of the village’s industrial base and the influx of non-locals; (2) the degradation of the quality of life (in the physical aspects) based on increasing tourism; and (3) the collision predicated by the tension between conserving the historic environments and developing tourism. There is a consensus that tourism development and historic environments’ preservation can be compatible and complementary, although increasing tourism caused by WHS designation can bring excessive tourism-focusing development instead of conservation-focusing activities because of its economic benefits [28,65]. World Heritage today is highly successful in maintaining heritage sites all over the world. If WHS designation accompanies a management plan, which can predict site-specific WHS designation impacts and control the impacts, tourism development and preservation, WHS designation can be used as a more effective tool for managing living heritage sites, such as villages’ historic environments.
This research focuses on suggesting considerations for future management of Hahoe Village. Making management plans with concern for these considerations are required to secure community sustainability as future research.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


The following abbreviations are used in this manuscript:
HVPSHahoe Village Preservation Society
UNESCOUnited Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization
WHCWorld Heritage Convention
WHLWorld Heritage List
WHSWorld Heritage Site


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Figure 1. Map of Korea with Hahoe Village’s location.
Figure 1. Map of Korea with Hahoe Village’s location.
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Figure 2. Hahoe Village’s number of visitors between 2003 and 2014 [43].
Figure 2. Hahoe Village’s number of visitors between 2003 and 2014 [43].
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Figure 3. Hahoe Village’s entrance fee earnings between 2003 and 2014 [43]. * The number of visitors in 2012 was less than 2011, but the entrance fee earning in 2012 was greater, because of the rising entrance fee in 1 July 2012.
Figure 3. Hahoe Village’s entrance fee earnings between 2003 and 2014 [43]. * The number of visitors in 2012 was less than 2011, but the entrance fee earning in 2012 was greater, because of the rising entrance fee in 1 July 2012.
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Figure 4. Samsindang in Hahoe Village.
Figure 4. Samsindang in Hahoe Village.
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Table 1. Government funds for Hahoe Village 2003–2012 [46].
Table 1. Government funds for Hahoe Village 2003–2012 [46].
Funds for Cultural Heritage Restoration (KRW)Funds for Tourists’ Facilities (KRW)Funds for the Rest (KRW)Total Funds for Hahoe Village (KRW)
Table 2. Demographic profile of survey respondents.
Table 2. Demographic profile of survey respondents.
Demographic Characteristics (n = 42)FrequencyPercentage (%)
60 and over2047.6
Highest level of educationHigh school or less2047.6
Graduate school49.5
Participation in tourism industryParticipation2661.9
Table 3. Residents’ perceptions toward WHS designation impact on Hahoe Village.
Table 3. Residents’ perceptions toward WHS designation impact on Hahoe Village.
Impact Variables *MeanSD% Agree
Increasing employment opportunities3.571.5761.9
Improving opportunities to invest2.811.3433.3
Encouraging the residents to join tourism industry2.951.3738.1
Increasing price of land and housing1.981.1914.3
Increasing cost of living2.001.039.5
Improving public utilities infrastructure3.001.2128.6
Increasing the availability of recreational facilities2.331.3719.0
Improving quality of police protection3.101.1223.8
Improving quality of fire protection3.551.2150.0
Increasing the demand for historical and cultural exhibits3.651.3350.0
Encouraging residents’ participation in cultural activities3.101.3745.0
Preserving cultural identity of local residents2.481.3119.0
Increasing crime and robberies2.381.2614.3
Harming village’s intrinsic culture2.951.2228.6
Helping to restore lost culture3.151.4740.0
Increasing vandalism2.951.0128.6
Increasing invasion of privacy4.480.9180.9
Increasing the amenities for residents2.241.3519.1
Preserving the village environment2.901.3933.3
Increasing availability to repair/reconstruction2.861.4738.0
Congesting traffic condition3.651.5465.0
Increasing litter4.001.3976.2
Increasing noise pollution3.381.5452.3
Increasing overcrowding3.861.1361.9
* Measured on a five-point Likert type scale; 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree. SD: standard deviation.
Table 4. Additional residents’ perceptions toward Hahoe Village.
Table 4. Additional residents’ perceptions toward Hahoe Village.
Impact Variables *MeanSD% Agree
Satisfaction of Quality of Life
I am proud of living in Hahoe Village3.851.4465.0
Hahoe Village is a good place to live3.651.2555.0
WHS designation improves quality of life2.791.3321.1
I will live in Hahoe Village rest of life4.401.2585.0
Support for Preservation and Tourism Development
WHS designation brings positive impacts on resident’s lives3.241.5542.8
Village needs more preservation4.860.4794.8
Economic benefits are more important than preservation2.401.2920.0
Positive impacts of tourism outweigh negative impacts3.601.5855.0
Tourism is one major industry in Hahoe Village4.290.9476.1
I want to join tourism industry4.241.4280.9
WHS designation brings positive tourism impacts3.571.5457.2
Village needs more tourism development4.810.39100.0
* Measured on five point Likert type scale; 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = neutral, 4 = agree, 5 = strongly agree. SD: standard deviation.
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