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Controversy over Chun Kyung-ja's painting reignites after court rules against painter's family

By Park Yuna

Published : July 21, 2023 - 19:06

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“Beautiful Woman” (Yonhap) “Beautiful Woman” (Yonhap)

The bereaved family of Korea’s pioneering female artist, Chun Kyung-ja, lost a legal battle against prosecutors Friday, after the Seoul Central District Court ruled against Chun's daughter's claims that prosecutors damaged Chun's honor by spreading false information about the painting “Beautiful Woman.”

The Seoul Central District Court disagreed with Kim Jeong-hee, who made the claim four years ago that the artist and her family should be compensated 100 million won ($77,800) by the government for defamation.

In 2016, the court ruled that Chun’s painting “Beautiful Woman,” which is housed at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea, is genuine.

Kim filed a complaint in 2019, insisting Chun's family could not accept the conclusion of authenticity since prosecutors did not reference the analysis by French firm Lumiere Technology, which concluded that there is only a 0.0002 percent chance the piece could have been painted by the artist.

Jean Penicaut, CEO of the French image analysis firm, held a press conference at the time in Seoul where he discussed evidence against claims of the painting's authenticity.

The court, however, disagreed with the plaintiff’s claim. Kim issued a statement expressing her strong disappointment over the ruling. Kim and her legal representative are considering whether or not to appeal.

The authenticity of “Beautiful Woman” had been in question since it was exhibited at the MMCA in 1991. Chun called it a fake, saying that "What kind of parent wouldn't know whether it's their own child or not?"

However, the Galleries Association of Korea and Korean art appraisers conducted their own analyses and claimed that it was Chun’s work.

"My disappointment with the prosecutors and the judiciary who turned a blind eye despite my mother's desperate pleas is not only my own but also shared by all artists," Kim said in the statement.

Chun, who was born in 1924, passed away in 2015.