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National Cultural Agency Chief Resigns

Posted February. 14, 2008 18:39,   

한국어

The head of the National Cultural Heritage Administration, Yoo Hong-june, submitted his resignation to President Roh Moo-hyun yesterday over the loss of the country’s top cultural treasure.

In a press conference held at the National Palace Museum of Korea inside Gyeongbok Palace, Yoo said, “Somebody needs to take responsibility for the loss of Sungnyemun which has wretched the hearts of the Korean people. I offered my resignation as I believe the responsibility falls on the chief of the country’s cultural heritage agency.”

Yoo was the target of public criticism when it was discovered that on the day of the fire, his wife was accompanying him on an official trip to Amsterdam.

Yoo left for the Netherlands last Wednesday at the start of the Lunar New Year holiday. Not only did Yoo received a government travel allowance of 16 million won, but the couple also received free round-trip tickets from Korean Air worth an estimated 12 million won. His conduct is being criticized as inappropriate for a public servant.

In what seemed to be an unsuccessful attempt to justify his actions, Yoo explained at the press conference, “My wife went along because my official trip took place during the holiday. It’s normal practice for one’s spouse to be in attendance on these types of trips in foreign countries.”

Nevertheless, Yoo added, “The loss of the nation’s No. 1 cultural treasure during my tenure has brought disgrace upon me. I leave with an indelible scar that will perhaps remain with me even after I die.”

Regarding Sungnyemun’s status as the country’s No. 1 cultural treasure, Ahn Hui-jun, head of the Cultural Properties Committee, said yesterday, “The subcommittee on Construction and Historic Sites has decided to maintain Sungnyemun’s status. If new facts that require a reassessment emerge during the restoration process, we will discuss the matter then. However, it is unlikely that Sungnyemun’s status as the nation’s No. 1 cultural treasure will change.”



raphy@donga.com