[FOUNTAIN]Hunt for Treasures in Your Grasp

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[FOUNTAIN]Hunt for Treasures in Your Grasp

Wrecked ships lying on the ocean floor filled with treasure have always been the stuff of fiction and fantasy. But sometimes, the fiction becomes fact.

One of the most astonishing tales is the recovery of treasure from the "Central America" of the United States. The "Central America" sank in a hurricane 200 miles off North Carolina in 1857, carrying 21 tons of Californian gold. In 1989, 132 years after it sank, an engineer called Tommy Thomson, using a robot able to operate in deep sea, recovered 1.3 trillion won ($1 billion) of treasure that had been lost 2,400 meters below the surface.

The first treasure ship found in Korea is now known as the "Sinan Treasure Ship." The first clue to the wreck was in May 1975, when a fisherman found six pieces of pottery, including a piece of Koryo celadon in his fishing net. Upon exploration, 22,000 items were found on the ship, which had been a trading vessel sailing between China and Japan. Most of the relics found on the ship were from the Song and Yuan dynasties in China, but there were also invaluable historical artifacts, including ceramics from Koryo dynasty and a knife from Japan, which had enormous scholarly value.

The richest underwater region for treasure ships is the Caribbean sea, which has been dubbed a "ship graveyard." Treasure hunters diligently trawl that area in hopes of striking gold.

Legendary tales in Asia often concern a ship commanded by General Tomoyuki Yamashita, who was returning to Japan at the end of World War II with looted gold. A Japanese warship sank in the seas around the Geoje islands right before Japan's defeat may be this very ship; it is currently under exploration. Dong-Ah Construction Co. captured public interest when it restarted the search for a Russian warship, the "Donskoi," which sank during the the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05).

Two or three days ago silver coins and silver bullion were found in the "Gao Sheng," a ship of the Qing dynasty, which sank during the the Sino-Japanese War (1894-95) in the Yellow Sea. Unbelievably, this treasure could be worth up to 10 trillion won. At this stressful time, such stories must sound wonderful and far-off indeed to people's ears. Unfortunately, stories, such as the young man who won his own treasure trove of 2.5 billion won in the lottery on Tuesday, though just as much a long shot, could be building false hopes in the hearts of some.

As Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said, "Take advantage of the treasure in your own arms before you start searching for treasure in the middle of mountains."

The writer is Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Yoo Jae-sik

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