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Controversy rekindled over late Chun Kyung-ja’s painting

Chun’s descendants give state-run museum ultimatum to dispose of ‘fake work’

Controversy over the authenticity of the late artist Chun Kyung-ja’s “Beautiful Woman” has been reignited with family members of the late artist issuing an ultimatum to the state-run National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which is in possession of the painting. 
Artist Chun Kyung-ja (Yonhap)
Artist Chun Kyung-ja (Yonhap)

This time, Sumita Kim, the third of Chun’s four children, and Chun’s son-in-law Muhn B.G. said they would take legal actions if the museum does not formally apologize and correct its past wrongdoings by Dec. 21.

The family’s lawyer Bae Keum-ja said they had sent an official document to the museum on Dec. 3, requesting the state museum in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, to come clean and dispose of the painting the museum claims is authentic, despite Chun’s previous protests that it was not her work.

“If the museum does not respond by the given date, we will press charges not only for defamation, but also for human rights violations,” Bae said in a telephone interview.

“This has gone on for too long, disrespecting a respectable artist over a painting, which I remind you, had been proven to be a forged piece by a real criminal who has confessed that it was not real,” Bae said.

Bae said the museum violated Chun’s human rights by calling her “nuts” and saying she was “suffering from dementia” when the artist, then in her 60s, said the painting held by the museum was not her creation. A local cable broadcaster ran an investigative news story that found the museum had never officially requested a scientific investigation on the authenticity of the painting, Bae noted.
“Beautiful Woman”
“Beautiful Woman”

The family’s lawyer added, “This is an unprecedented case that people will never see happen overseas. The museum has wrongfully made a profit from forged art, damaging the artist’s reputation.”

The National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art said that it has no official comment on the matter, adding that it was currently reviewing the document sent by the law firm, Haein Law.

“We are at the moment looking over the document, and have pulled down digital pictures of the painting from our website,” said the museum’s spokesperson.

The conflict between the two sides has been ongoing since the 1990s, when Chun claimed she did not paint “Beautiful Woman.” Distraught by the incident, Chun declared she would stop painting and left for the U.S., where she died recently in August.

“This is not a matter of whether the museum would conduct an investigation under its supervision, which will be meaningless, but a matter of showing respect for Chun, who was ignored for a long time” said Bae.

By Park Hyong-ki (