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Korea allows permanent overseas exhibition of cultural heritage for 1st time

The Cultural Heritage Administration has authorized two early 20th century paintings to be exhibited in Australia, marking the first time state-designated cultural heritage has been allowed to be exhibited permanently outside the country.

According to the administration, a Chaekgado painting and a Lotuses painting, originally created as folding screens, were recently sold by a private owner to the National Gallery of Victoria to be exhibited in its Korean exhibition halls.

After the go-ahead from the CHA, the gallery plans to take the paintings next month.

A Chaekgado painting (Cultural Heritage Administration)
A Chaekgado painting (Cultural Heritage Administration)
A Lotuses painting (Cultural Heritage Administration)
A Lotuses painting (Cultural Heritage Administration)

Chaekgado refers to a type of painting that came into being in the 18th century by order of King Jeongjo. Extant Chaekgado, literally translated into “books and desk set,” are mostly post-19th century pieces. Lotuses paintings are themed after lotus flowers, which have special meanings in Buddhism and Confucianism.

Officials said the paintings represent a trend found in the Korean Peninsula during those periods.

“The CHA has decided that the two (pieces of) cultural heritage would be of greater value being displayed outside the country rather than here. After a deliberation last Friday, it has been decided that they (paintings) could permanently be located outside the country for display,” the CHA said in a press release.

Korean law in principle forbids anyone from taking state-designated cultural heritage out of the country. But it is allowed when a museum, gallery or an organization certified by law to be equipped to handle cultural heritage receives approval from the CHA. Art pieces and artifacts of Korea have been loaned to museums and galleries before, but this is the first time such items have been authorized to leave the country permanently.

The CHA authorities said this move represents the administration’s resolve to extend the influence of Korean culture outside the boundaries of the peninsula. It added that such measures will continue, as long as the artifacts or art pieces serve public interest by being displayed outside the country.

By Yoon Min-sik