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National Treasure No. 1 Could Change

Posted November. 08, 2005 07:25,   


An official pointed out, “The Sungryemun is right in the middle of the big avenue in Jung-gu, Seoul, hence its value as a tourist destination has decreased and is not very interesting to foreign tourists.”

Accordingly, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI), after undergoing discussions, plans to advise Cultural Heritage Administrator that the “National Treasure Number One should be reassigned.”

In a phone conversation with Dong-A Ilbo, Cultural Heritage Administrator Yoo Hong-joon answered, “It is difficult to reassign all the national treasures, but currently we are reviewing the issue of reassigning National Treasure Number One.”

An official of the Cultural Heritage Administration also said, “If BAI advises so, we will review reassigning the national treasure after gathering opinions from experts and the Korean public.”

Sungryemun was assigned as Treasure Number One in 1934 during Japanese colonial rule when the Joseon Government General issued a decree to preserve Joseon’s important cultural assets. In 1962, the Cultural Heritage Bureau then reassigned all the treasures as national treasures and cultural treasures, raising continuous criticism that it did not get rid of the remains of Japanese rule.

In this respect, BAI has already requested outside research on changing the national treasure designation system as part of history correction, which includes replacing National Treasure Number One with another cultural asset that represents Korea.

It has been reported that BAI is reviewing measures recommending “Hunminjeongeum” (National Treasure Number 70, World Archive Heritage) currently property of Gansong Museum, “Geumdong Mireuk Bosal Bangasang” (National Treasure Number 83) at the National Museum of Korea, and “Seokgulam” (National Treasure Number 24, World Archive Heritage) in Gyeonju as candidates for the new Treasure Number One.

On the other hand, BAI sent 11 auditors to the Cultural Heritage Administration and seven other related organizations to conduct on-site audits in the designation and management of cultural heritage assets.

However, there are also critical opinions claiming that reassigning National Treasure Number One will cause various problems. Even if National Treasure Number One is changed, it will not be easy to gain national consent for the newly assigned cultural asset, and there will be side effects such as costs in re-designating the treasure.

In particular, there are many people pointing out that the argument of changing National Treasure Number One for the sake of cleaning up the remains of Japanese colonial rule is logically weak.

Hyung-June Park Kwawg-Pyo Lee lovesong@donga.com kplee@donga.com