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National Museum wants people to visit Korea to see its artifacts

Museum to promote Three Kingdoms-period Pensive Bodhisattvas as iconic exhibits

National Museum of Korea Director General Min Byoung-chan speaks during a press conference Wednesday. (NMK)
National Museum of Korea Director General Min Byoung-chan speaks during a press conference Wednesday. (NMK)
An exhibition hall for two Pensive Bodhisattvas, a science center for artifacts and the expansion of a children’s museum are some of the projects ahead this year for the National Museum of Korea. Director General Min Byoung-chan outlined the plans during a press conference Wednesday.

“I hope that foreigners can one day say that they came to the country to visit the National Museum of Korea,” Min said.

Other projects for the year include renovation of the exhibition halls showing donated items and supporting national museums in different regions of the country.

By November the museum will have a new 440-square-meter exhibition hall for two Pensive Bodhisattvas, both gilt-bronze statues produced during the Three Kingdoms period (57 BC- AD 668) that have been designated National Treasures. National Treasure No. 78 is 80 centimeters tall and wears a crown. National Treasure No. 83, at 93.5 centimeters, is the tallest Pensive Bodhisattva that still exists.

Min hopes to promote the two artifacts as pieces that people immediately associate with the museum.

“We all know there is the ‘Mona Lisa’ at the Louvre Museum in Paris. But when people think of the National Museum of Korea, there isn’t any representative piece that comes to their mind,” Min said.

The work of establishing a cultural heritage science center, essential to the task of examining and authenticating cultural heritage, will begin this year.

“We aim to establish a cultural heritage science center by 2024,” Min said. The museum will focus on collecting the necessary data over the next three years, he said.

Two Pensive Bodhisattvas, designated as National Treasures No. 78 (left) and No. 83
Two Pensive Bodhisattvas, designated as National Treasures No. 78 (left) and No. 83
Once the center opens, the accuracy of its authentication work will reach 90 percent, he explained.

This year the museum also plans to rework the space dedicated to showing donated items.

“We found out that the Donated Works section in our museum is the least visited space,” Min said. He attributed this to fact that the halls are named after the donors, making it difficult for visitors to know which items are on display.

Some of the halls will be renovated to feature personal stories about donors, while some of the items there will be moved to other permanent exhibition halls.

“For instance, white porcelain from a donor can be moved to be displayed with other white porcelains in the permanent exhibition hall with a small tag showing the donor’s name,” Min said. “We will have to decide on the schedule for this project after discussing the matter with our donors.”

The expansion of the children’s museum created some 15 years ago will be complete by 2025.

“Although Korea’s cultural assets are important, we intend to change it so that children can also learn foreign cultures as well. We will find the right balance. We plan to expand it to twice the current size,” Min said.

Min also added that the museum will inject around 25 billion won ($22.43 million) to renovate and grow its network of regional national museums this year. Currently, there are 13 regional national museums under the National Museum of Korea.

“Not every museum can become a big museum like the National Museum of Korea in Seoul. But we will support regional museums so that they can reflect their local characteristics,” Min said.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)
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