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Ringing changes for Korean bell gifted to U.S.

Korean culture lovers in America are campaigning to restore a traditional bell to its former glory.

The Korean Friendship Bell has been a much-loved local landmark since being presented to the district of San Pedro in Los Angeles, California 35 years ago as a bicentennial gift to the United States.

But now people in the port district of the city fear the bell is falling into disrepair.

The 17-ton bell, modelled on the one originally cast for Bongdeok Temple in 771, is made of bronze and is among the largest bells in the world. 
The Korean Bell of Friendship which sits on a hill in Los Angeles, California (Ernest Lee)
The Korean Bell of Friendship which sits on a hill in Los Angeles, California (Ernest Lee)

Now the San Pedro Korean Friendship Bell Preservation Committee is raising money to help preserve the bell which has sat atop a hill in Angels Gate Park in an area known as the Korean-American Peace Park since 1976.

Fund-raisers for the nonprofit volunteer group say the bell is showing signs of age and are pushing to collect $120,000 for the first phase of restoration. Their most urgent task is to repair a broken link from which the bell was once suspended. Work to replace the link alone could cost up to $60,000, as it must be carried out by artisans. But the group hopes to raise the cash and have it repaired by the end of the summer.

Because of the damage, the bell must currently sit on a platform rather than hanging from the pavilion, and can only be rung electronically rather than by the traditional means of striking a log against its side.

The bell is normally rung on Korean American Day, the Fourth of July and Korean Liberation Day.

Enthusiasts also want to make structural repairs to the bell’s pavilion, which has been weathered by ocean winds from the harbor area.

The group has asked everyone in the San Pedro community to donate $1 to the cause and have been holding fund-raising events in the area.

Supporters also plan to hold an exhibition of wedding pictures taken at the bell, which is a popular backdrop for snaps of festive events.

Those wishing to learn more about the bell or make a donation to the cause can do so by sending a check to KFBPC (Korean Friendship Bell Preservation Committee) 3601 S. Gaffey St., Box 12, San Pedro CA 90731.

By Kirsty Taylor (Kirstyt@heraldcorp.com)
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