Published : 2014-01-03 20:46
Updated : 2014-01-03 20:46
Police raided the offices and residence of a veteran carpenter suspected of supplying wood imported from Russia for the Sungnyemun Gate restoration project, officials said Friday.
Speculations have grown over the materials used in the restoration of the ancient gate in Seoul that some craftsmen allegedly brought wood imported Russia and other regions, instead of using homegrown wood, called geumgang-song.
An intellectual crime unit at Korean National Police Agency has been investigating the allegations following a series of revelations that the gate was poorly restored.
A parliamentary audit in October revealed that Sungnyemun Gate had more than 20 spots with flaking paint and one of the wooden columns supporting the pavilion had essentially split down the middle.
The police said that they have seized documents and evidence from the wood trading firm, based in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, and its branch offices in Seoul. The business, only identified as W, is owned by Shin Ung-soo, a master carpenter who participated in the renovation work.
The purpose of the raid was to secure evidence to compare with the list of wood previously provided by the Cultural Heritage Administration, officials said. They have not yet found charges against the carpenter.
“The source of the timber supplied to the government (for the restoration project) is unclear. The raid was carried out to probe allegations that geumgang-song was not used for the work,” an investigator said.
The carpenter denied allegations and said the police are making a false accusation.
“I have many homegrown pine trees more than 20-30 years old. The allegations that (we used) Russian wood for Sungnyemun is too absurd,” he was quoted by Yonhap News Agency.
Only five months after Sungnyemun Gate in Seoul was reopened to the public on May 4, following a 63-month restoration, paint on the walls was seen peeling off in October.
President Park Geun-hye ordered a strict investigation of cultural restoration projects, saying those found responsible for shoddy repair work should be severely punished.
Sungnyemun Gate is the country’s National Treasure No. 1 and one of the four gates that surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). It reopened in May after undergoing years of repair due to an arson attack in 2008. The project took 63 months and cost 24.7 billion won ($23.4 million). It involved some 35,000 man-days by scores of historians, field experts and thousands of workers.