Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage
Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage
  • Reporter Kwon Na-eun
  • 승인 2014.06.04 13:16
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In these days, some people are too ignorant about Korean cultural heritage even though it is their own heritage. However, it is very important to know about Korean cultural heritage because it is not only a set of national and historical knowledge but also someone’s own history. It has much influence on how someone came to be. In other words, it is a large part of who someone is.
Overseas Korean cultural heritage can be widely divided into two groups. First are the ones that were taken out of Korea legally. These items were legal purchases or gifts so they do not have to be repatriated. The second items are the ones that were taken out illegally. Unlike the first group, the items that were taken out by force or any other illegal methods, especially during Japanese colonial period and the U.S. military occupation, should be repatriated to Korea.
Overseas Korean cultural heritage is found in national, public, and private museums in Japan, United States of America, and numerous other countries. Moreover, a significant but unknown amount of cultural heritage is in private collections. Several examples include: Oe-kyujanggak (Royal Library Branch) manuscripts, Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land, Jikji, and so on. These items have unique values; they have their own historical, artistic, and technological meanings.

(Royal Library Branch) Manuscripts
Oe-kyujanggak (Royal Library Branch) manuscripts are stored at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France and has a lot of historical meaning. In 1886, Admiral Roze of the French Far East Navy, then based in China, invaded Kanghwa Island near Seoul, in retaliation for the persecution of Catholic missionaries of French nationality by the Korean Government. Then they pillaged 340 volumes of Chosun royal protocols. Those are rare official documents of the Chosun dynasty so they have a lot of historical meanings and countless values.

Dream Journey to the
Peach Blossom Land
Prince Anpyeong, third son of King Sejong, once had a wonderful dream about going to a mountain and seeing exquisite scene of rocky cliffs, peach trees, and a forest path. He immediately called a famous artist after he woke up, whose name was An Gyeon, and asked him to paint his dream. Ahn Hwijoon, emeritus professor of art history, described the painting as following: “The peach orchard spreads out over a broad expanse that appears to continue for several miles, surrounded by a towering wall of mountains shrouded by dense clouds and mist. There is an abundance of peach trees in bloom, along with bamboo groves and several thatched cottages. There are no hens, no cows, nor other animals, but only a small boat drifting along a stream. The scene is lovely yet desolate, like a village of the immortals.” It is possible to see the artistic values in it without even seeing the painting.

It is the oldest surviving publication of a movable metal typeset. It was made in Goryoe and its technology was clearly ahead of its time. Many signs and evidences have been found that Goryeo invented and developed metal type technology in the early 1200s, about 200 years earlier than in the western world. Goryeo’s Jikji printing press at first surprised the people in Paris by upending all previous assumptions that Gutenberg’s press was the world’s first.