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Polar Star shines bright for Choe brothers

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  • Published : Aug 1, 2010 - 15:34
  • Updated : Aug 1, 2010 - 15:34
The brothers Choe Chong-dae and Choe Chong-pil received the Swedish Order of the Polar Star for their efforts in promoting relations between Korea and Sweden.

What is interesting about this is the history of the Choe family and the royal family in Sweden that spans three generations.

Professor Choe Chong-dae and Choe Chong-pil’s unique ties with Sweden dates back to the time of their father.

In 1926, the crown prince of Sweden, later King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, was touring archeological sights in this part of the world.

The late Swedish King Gustaf VI Adolf, the grandfather of the present King Carl XVI Gustaf, took part in the excavation of a golden crown from the Silla Dynasty at the Sobong Tomb in Gyeongju, the capital of the ancient Silla Kingdom with Choe Nam-ju, the two honorees’ father.

Since the excavation work, they become close academic associates even before diplomatic relations were established between the two countries over 50 years ago.

In 1971, Choe Nam-ju was awarded the insignia of the Swedish Royal Order Vasa, a knighthood first class by the late king in recognition of his efforts toward enhancing cultural exchanges between Korea and Sweden.
Archaeology professor Choe Chong-pil (second from left) and his brother Choe Chong-dae (left) discuss the ties his family has with the Swedish Royal Family with Swedish Ambassador Lars Vargo and Vargo’s wife Eva.                      Yoav Cerralbo/The Korea Herald

But this history is not the reason why the Choe brothers received their decoration; it is just part of the story that adds to a rich tapestry of personal relations between the royal family and the Choe family.

Choe Chong-pil, professor of archaeology at Sejong University and chairman of the International Council of Museums, Korea and Choe Chong-dae, president of Dae-kwang International Company, were awarded the decoration by Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf for their dedicated effort and contributions in promoting Sweden and the Swedish culture in Korea as well as friendship between the two countries.

Furthermore, they have both been working in the Sweden-Korean Association for a long period.

In 1994, the present Swedish king, guided by Choe Chong-pil, visited the site of the Sobong Tomb where their family members discovered the Silla Dynasty royal crown together.

The former King Gustaf VI Adolf’s love for ancient relics gave him the impetus to establish the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in 1926, which was opened to the public in 1929.

The museum’s main holdings are its archeological collections from China and other parts of Asia, including Korea.

The Choe brothers played a pivotal role in establishing the Korean Pavilion at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm.

The Order of the Polar Star is a Swedish order of chivalry created by King Frederick I of Sweden in 1748.

After the reorganization of the orders in 1975, the order is only awarded to foreigners and members of the royal family. It is often awarded to foreign office holders such as prime and senior ministers during Swedish state visits. By 

Yoav Cerralbo (yoav@heraldcorp.com)