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More Humiliation for Goguryeo in China

Posted August. 11, 2005 03:05,   


The intense lighting required for CCTV coverage caused moisture to form on the surface of mural paintings that had formerly withstood 1,500 years of exposure. The dampness was particularly severe by the air-conditioning unit standing right in front of the murals. However, a Chinese caretaker casually remarked, “We run the cameras hundreds of times a day,” with no regard for the damaging onset of moisture.

Since being registered on UNESCO’s list of World Cultural Heritage sites in July of last year, Goguryeo relics in China have been suffering from indiscriminate tourism and propagandistic use by the Chinese government as the latter continues its effort to subsume Goguryeo into Chinese history.

On June 30, Chinese authorities opened the door in the protective glass compartment that has covered the tombstone of King Gwanggaeto since 2003. Now everyone has unimpeded access to the tombstone. Experts on the preservation of historical artifacts are deeply concerned: although stopping the natural flow of air by enveloping the tombstone in glass is a problem in itself, frequent tourist traffic within such a closed space will release an excess of human breath into the internal atmosphere and accelerate the corrosion of the tombstone.

Professor Seo Young-soo of Dankook University who heads the Koguryo Research Foundation closely examined the tombstone and said, “An adhesive has been injected into the cracks to prevent the tombstone from splitting, but it has since trickled down the face of the stone to stain the inscriptions in reddish black.” He added with alarm, “There are even signs of cement having been applied.”

Scattered on the ground before the tombstone are a mess of coins and bills. The historic testament to Goguryeo’s heyday, invested with the grandeur and majesty of the powerful nation, has become a mere wishing stone for tourists.

The royal mausoleum of King Jangsu (or “Janggunchong”), known as the “pyramid of Northeast Asia,” has been so trampled by the increasing masses of tourists that one of the tomb’s support stones has slipped out of place. As a result, the mausoleum’s northeastern face has subsided to an alarming degree.

The mausoleum known as “Taewangneung,” which boasts twice the scale of Janggunchong, is becoming overrun with weeds that protrude between the stones covering the burial mound, so that the loosened stones continue to tumble down the sides of the tomb.

Even more serious damage is being inflicted on Goguryeo relics that did not make the World Heritage list. A stone quarry has dug its way to within a mere 100m of the Baekam Fortress (or “Yeonjusanseong”), which lies outside the city of Liaoyang in Liaoning Province, but the Chinese government is doing nothing to prevent the incursion.

Chae-Hyun Kwon confetti@donga.com