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[Opinion] Slanted Seokga Tower

Posted September. 23, 2002 23:08,   


The leaning tower of Pisa, now standing still after 11 years of repair work, shows a great achievement of science. Due to the weak foundation, it was considered impossible to erect the tower backward at first. Taking advantage of advanced technology, however, top engineers from the all over the world erected the tower backward by 43cm. Putting a pipe into the ground against the declining side, they firmed up the weak foundation by removing moist with specially designed devices. Thanks to the outstanding work, Pisa’s leaning tower is now what used to be in the early 1800s. Like the work of a time machine, science took the tower back to 200 years ago.

▷History majors are no longer assigned to take care of cultural treasures. Such practice has gone long before. Science of cultural preservation is a comprehensive study that combines physics, chemistry and microbiology as well as history. As it also takes a lot of money to preserve cultural heritage, advanced countries are mostly ahead in this area of science. It is indeed marvelous to watch ancient remains hardly recognizable at the time of excavation turned into flamboyant treasures through the process of restoration and preservation.

▷It is said that Dabo tower and Seokga tower in Bulguk Temple are slanting as well. The former stands askew by 0.6 degree from the ground, and the latter by 0.9 degree, which translates into 10cm and 12cm respectively when put into a meter term. Although it has yet to pose a serious threat, we need to watch carefully whether the towers are to further decline. News about damage to cultural properties often makes a headline these days. It was not long ago that some stones comprising No. 1 national treasure Namdaemun were broken apart from the gate, and this time it is Dabo and Seokga tower. Do we grow immune to such news? Otherwise, we must be shocked.

▷Experts insist that the authorities reinforce workforce to protect cultural treasures through an established maintenance and repair system. That must be done, but is not enough. As we cannot put guards in front of cultural assets around the clock, workforce reinforcement alone will not do enough. What we need is to learn to value cultural treasures. The legend of Asadal, a mason who built Seokga tower, and his wife reflects respectful manner our ancestors bore when they built the tower. Asdal did not meet his wife for years while he built the tower. There seems not much difference in artisan spirit that gave birth to Pisa’s leaning tower and Seokga tower, but what we are doing to preserve cultural heritage is much different from what Italians are doing. We might as well feel ashamed of our lack of interest and commitment.

Hong Chan-shik, Editorial Writer chansik@donga.com