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Stolen stone duck returns home in 16 years

Posted March. 06, 2019 08:13,   

Updated March. 06, 2019 08:13


Dangsan, a tall stone pillar, is believed to have guarded a village in Dongjung-ri, Buan-eup, Buan, North Jeolla Province, for 300 years from the middle of the Joseon Dynasty. The stone pillar as high as three meters used to have a stone duck, which is 29 centimeters long and 59 centimeters wide, on top of itself. On the day of the first full moon of the Lunar New Year, the village people would hold an annual ritual called “Dangsanje” in front of the stone duck facing Mount Seonghwangsan to wish for peace and good harvest of the year.

Yet, the stone duck vanished in March 2003. It looked like someone stole the duck, but there was no way to verify it. Villagers placed a new stone duck on top of the stone pillar the following year, but they could not stop their unique, traditional ritual from becoming a thing of the past in 2005.

Fortunately, the original stone duck (of Buan’s Dangsan, which is registered as National Folklore Cultural Heritage No.19) has been discovered and is about to return home in 16 years. The Cultural Heritage Administration has announced that a ceremony was held in the village Tuesday to celebrate the return of the stone duck. “The combination of Dangsan and a duck is very unusual,” said Choi Eun-ryeong, an appraiser at the administration. "The stone duck’s return is significant as it allows traditional culture to be inherited."

The stone duck’s homecoming has been made possible thanks to the persistent efforts of the Cultural Heritage Administration’s Cultural Heritage Security Policy Division. Since the theft was reported in 2015, they had consistently asked around dealers of stolen goods and stone works to find the whereabout of the stone duck until they received a phone call from an unidentified middle-aged man early last month. He informed them that the stone duck is in a hill between Jincheon and Cheongju. Felt suspicious about the sculpture of Hodori being placed in the middle of the hill, the division’s officials searched for the region, and finally found the lost stone duck.

“It seems the thief deliberately contacted the team as there’s been progress in the investigation,” said Han Sang-jin, head of the division’s team in charge of cracking down on illegal acts. "We will work with police to continue the investigation and arrest the suspect."

Won-Mo Yu onemore@donga.com