Overseas treasures boost cultural pride

CHA expanding support for historical objects in other countries

About 150,000 Korean cultural relics are scattered throughout more than 20 countries, including Japan, the United States and Germany, according to the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation.

Supporting preservation of them and research is a way of promoting understanding of Korean artifacts. At the same time, overseas artifacts are an effective means of enhancing Korean cultural pride. For Koreans overseas they generate a sense of connection to their roots while non-Koreans may develop curiosity after viewing an exhibition.

The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) has stepped up efforts to strengthen preservation of overseas cultural heritages and use them to raise the profile of Korea in eight countries since 2007. It has aided foreign institutions to establish databases and preservation treatments as well as produce publications related to Korean artifacts.

“The CHA will continue to exchange and cooperate with foreign institutions that house Korean cultural relics and expand the projects of preservation,” said a CHA official.

Starting with support for the Koryo Museum of Art in Kyoto, Japan, the government will expand assistance to the Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in the United States, Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii and Sevres, Cite de la Ceramique in France for this year.

Koryo Museum of Art in Japan

The CHA has recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Koryo Museum of Art in Kyoto, Japan which has been struggling financially. Through the MOU, the CHA will support publications about Korean artifacts to promote Korean culture there.

The museum, which houses artwork from the Goryeo and Joseon kingdoms, was established in 1988 by the late Korean-Japanese collector Chong Cho-mun. The founder collected more than 1,700 Korean cultural assets including some 300 pieces of ceramic ware, 150 paintings and calligraphic works and 50 metal craftworks.

The museum serves as the only art gallery both in Japan and other countries solely dedicated to ancient Korean artwork. The museum houses Korean archaeological relics such as polished stone tools and copper mirrors, tiles, ceramic artwork such as Goryeo celadon porcelain and Joseon white porcelain, wooden artwork decorated with mother-of-pearl, along with paintings of landscapes, flowers and birds, and folk paintings.

The collection also includes everyday items such as furniture and textiles, which were used in the life of a typical aristocrat during the Joseon period, giving a glimpse of the daily lives of people during that time.

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in US

The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is the only Asian art museum under the auspices of the Smithsonian Institution. The gallery has an average 900,000 visitors annually and holds more than 500 Korean relics including 130 Goryeo and 80 Joseon ceramic pieces.

When the gallery opened its doors in 1923, the Korean art collection was considered unparalleled in quality and historical scope. The Korea gallery reopened in 2011 after renovating the exhibition items, facilities and lighting supported by the National Museum of Korea.

The CHA will support in-depth research focusing on 17 Goryeo Buddhist paintings and establish a photo database in the Korean gallery this year.

Honolulu Museum of Art in Hawaii

The Honolulu Museum of Art has recently discovered two rare Korean paintings dating back to late 16th-century Korea in its collection. The paintings are regarded as extremely rare works because just a few survived the Japanese invasion from 1592-96.

The paintings were found during preservation work. One of them is “Gaehoe-do” which is dated 1586 with an inscription written by Yoon An-sung, a famous Korean poet in the top right hand corner of the painting, which portrays a detailed image of a meeting of scholars held in a small pavilion.

The other painting depicts the Chinese philosopher and cosmologist Zhou Dunyi, a common subject of the Joseon era in contemplation beside a small pool in which there are lily pads.

Although the museum has more than 90 Korean paintings in storage and a huge collection of Korean ceramics, the relics cannot be shown to the public because most of them are now undergoing conservation work.

The CHA will assist the museum to achieve better standards of preservation and exhibitions. The artwork from the collection, along with the new historical findings will be covered by this support. After the priceless discovery from Honolulu, the government plans to more actively find buried cultural relics both at home and abroad.

Sevres, Cite de la Ceramique in France

Sevres, Cite de la Ceramique is a French national ceramics museum located in a Paris suburb. The museum holds more than 50,000 European and Asian ceramic wares. The CHA will support a special exhibition of Korean ceramics to commemorate the 130th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between Korea and France in 2015. By Chung Ah-young The korea times

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