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Mummy of Papyeong Yun Clan has nowhere to go for 22 years

Mummy of Papyeong Yun Clan has nowhere to go for 22 years

Posted February. 10, 2023 07:54,   

Updated February. 10, 2023 07:54


“Whenever I am asked by overseas organizations to donate the mummies I have been researching, I have said that 'our history must be preserved and studied by us'. But now I feel I am really stretched thin.”

In a phone call on Thursday, Kim Han-gyeom (68), professor emeritus of Korea University Medical School, who has been studying the mummy of the Papyeong Yun clan excavated from the Jongjungsan tomb of the Yun clan in Paju, Gyeonggi Province in September 2002, said, “Even though the law has changed, still no one wants to take up the responsibility for this mummy.” he sighed. This mummy is widely regarded as the world's first mother-son mummy.

A total of eight mummies that Prof. Kim has been researching, including the Papyeong Yun Clan mother-son mummy, are stored in the anatomy department of Korea University Medical School and the autopsy room of Korea University Guro Hospital, which he used to work for. For over 20 years, the cost of storing mummies has been borne by hospitals and universities. However, with Prof. Kim's honorary retirement in March 2021, these mummies have no place to go.

In July last year, a new provision was established in the Act on Protection and Inspection of Buried Cultural Heritage, which recognizes mummies as “important excavated materials” academically and historically and supports their conservation and research. However, the Papyeong Yun Clan mother-son mummy is still not supported under this new provision. This is because the Cultural Heritage Administration has stated that “the law does not apply to human bones and mummies excavated during the burial process prior to the enforcement of the law.”

Accordingly, Prof. Kim tried to find out how to donate the mummies to the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage within the Cultural Heritage Administration, but the response from them was that such was also impossible. An official from the Cultural Heritage Administration's Excavation System said, "Currently, the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage does not have refrigeration/freezing facilities to enshrine mummies, nor does it have specialized personnel for research and storage." After the law went into effect in July last year, the Cultural Heritage Administration received 200 million won this year in the name of the “budget for the management and support of important excavated materials.” However, this is an extremely insufficient amount to have professional manpower and facilities in place for mummy research.

“We must protect the mummies that contain the world that existed hundreds of years ago. In the future, the Cultural Heritage Administration should expand the scope of support and research mechanism,” Prof. Kim said. “We need to take the words of Prof. Kim to heart. True support starts with expanding professional manpower and infrastructure capable of researching mummies."