National treasures, which have been missing for 25 years, have finally been found. The Cultural Heritage Administration, in cooperation with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, has found 123 stolen cultural assets, including Korea’s Treasure No. 1008 Mankukjeondo and the woodblocks of Sungnyemun written by Grand Prince Yangnyeong. The police indicted a man aged 50, who stole the Mankukjeondo and 116 ancient Korean books, and another man aged 70, who purchased and concealed six cultural assets, including the woodblocks of Sungnyemun and Hujeokbyeokbu, for violating the Cultural Properties Protection Law.
The Mankukjeondo is a world map drawn and colored by Park Jeong-seol in 1661. It is known to be the oldest Western-style world map produced in Korea. It is an enlarged version (133 x 71.5 centimeters) of the world map contained in Jikbangoigi, a portable world geography book compiled in Chinese characters by Italian missionary Giulio Alenio (1582-1649) in 1623. It had been kept by the Hamyang Park Clan before it was stolen with 116 manuscripts of archival books in around 1994.
The man aged 50 had purchased these cultural assets in August last year and hid the Mankukjeondo behind the wallpaper of his restaurant and the ancient books inside his house, according to the police. The cultural administration and the police obtained the intelligence and collected the cultural assets through search and seizure.
The man aged 70 had purchased two woodblocks of Sungnyemun, which had been stolen from a descendant of Grand Prince Yangnyeong in October 2008, and four woodblocks of Hujeokbyeokbu in 2013 and kept them in his vinyl greenhouse. The wooden plaque of the National Treasure No.1 Sungnyemun is known to be made based on the handwritings of Grand Prince Yangnyeong.
The collected woodblocks of Sungnyemun are restored in 1827 based on the woodblocks kept in Jideoksa Temple, a shrine to Grand Prince Yangnyeong, according to experts. The woodblocks have great cultural value as the only remaining block books of Sungnyemun since Jideoksa Temple currently has just the rubbed copy of the original.
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