The Korea Herald

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Korean artifacts reclaimed from overseas rise 9-fold

By Choi Si-young

Published : Dec. 25, 2023 - 13:56

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Daedongnyeojido. (The National Palace Museum of Korea) Daedongnyeojido. (The National Palace Museum of Korea)

The number of South Korean artifacts that have been retrieved from abroad this year increased to 1,550 from 170 in the last year, according to the Cultural Heritage Administration.

The artifacts were collected through purchases made on behalf of the CHA’s Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation as well as personal donations by collectors, the agency said.

Such items include Daedongnyeojido, or the Territorial Map of the Great East by cartographer Kim Jeong-ho. This map is more detailed than previous versions drawn by Kim. It was showcased at a monthlong special exhibition held by the National Palace Museum of Korea in May.

The agency added that another artifact, the Lotus Sutra -- a classic Mahayana text -- was in “very good condition,” given that the initial writing is believed to have taken place almost 700 years ago.

Personal donations contributed to the gigantic jump in this year’s retrieval.

Collections by Gary Mintier and his wife Mary Mintier, former US Peace Corps members, amounted to 1,516 pieces. The couple collected them between 1969 and 1975, when they took part in development assistance projects for Korea.

The agency said a headstone returned by Mark A. Peterson, an emeritus professor of Korean studies at Brigham Young University in the US, is now safely back with the descendants of Park Jeong-yang -- Korea’s inaugural ambassador to the US, who held office from 1887 to 1889. The tombstone had belonged to his wife.

Under the agency’s plan to overhaul itself next year, the CHA has said it will use cultural heritage to grow the economy by nurturing startups seeking to advance cultural heritage. Legislative support will be provided to make that happen, the agency says.

For next year, the agency is given a budget of 1.3 trillion won ($1 billion), about the same as this year’s.