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Relics found in Insa-dong confirmed to be oldest extant metal types

Metal type from the early Joseon era that have been excavated at Insa-dong in Jongno, central Seoul (CHA)
Metal type from the early Joseon era that have been excavated at Insa-dong in Jongno, central Seoul (CHA)

Some of the metal type blocks found in Insa-dong, central Seoul in June have been confirmed to be Gapinja, the oldest extant metal types from the Joseon era, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration on Friday.

The National Palace Museum of Korea is to hold a special exhibition, “Encounter With the Brilliant Scientific Technology of Joseon Dynasty,” from Nov. 3, showcasing the metal type blocks to the public for the first time.

In June, the Sudo Research Institute of Cultural Heritage excavated more than 1,600 pieces of metal type from the early Joseon era in Insa-dong in Jongno, central Seoul. The type blocks were assumed to be Gapinja metal type and introduced as such without first being proven.

The CHA confirmed Friday that the 53 metal type blocks are Gapinja, the earliest form of metal type from the Joseon era that exists.

Gapinja was made in 1434 under the order of King Sejong (1397-1450). Prior to the Gapinja findings, Eulhaeja was the oldest extant form of metal type, created during the reign of King Sejo in 1455.

At the upcoming exhibition, the National Palace Museum of Korea will present scientific relics from the early Joseon era unearthed from the same excavation site in June, along with the metal type blocks.

During the excavation, metal type blocks for Hangeul, copper artifacts that appear to be fragments of Jujeon, which is an engraved visual scale that tells time on a water clock, and more were found.

The exhibition will run until Dec. 31. 

Metal type assumed to be Gapinja type are on display at the National Museum of Korea. (Yonhap)
Metal type assumed to be Gapinja type are on display at the National Museum of Korea. (Yonhap)


Meanwhile, the National Museum of Korea also announced it has 152 metal type blocks assumed to be Gapinja. The museum was able to make the assumption based on books donated by the late Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee and the late Song Sung-moon, the author of the Sung Moon Comprehensive English Grammar book. The books were printed with the Gapinja metal type.

The National Museum of Korea’s metal type blocks assumed to be Gapinja type are on display at the National Museum of Korea.

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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