[FOUNTAIN]Two symbols of reliabilitySince 1966, Koreans have used the 10-won coin, which has a value of about 8/10 of a cent. The coin is inscribed with the Dabotap, a pagoda standing at the center of a Buddhist temple, national treasure No. 20 built in 756 during the Silla Dynasty.
Ten won was the largest denomination for coins at the time; it was cast by the Korea Minting and Security Printing Corpor-ation under the aegis of Park Chung Hee, who had seized power in a military coup d'etat.
Mr. Park carried out currency reform: 100 whan to 10 won, 50 whan to 5 won and 10 whan to 1 won. The Dabotap replaced the likeness of former President Syngman Rhee on the front of the 10-won coin. National currency is usually inscribed with well-known symbols, heroes or heroines. The reason the Dabotap has been inscribed on coins might have to do with its uniqueness and artistry. The beauty of the Dabotap is beyond its form. It has profound symbolic meaning in Buddhism as does the Seokatap, which stands across from it.
Bulguksa temple, where the Dabotap and Seokgatop stand at the center of the grounds, means literally "The Temple of Buddha's Country." The courtyard in front of the main temple is a place where Buddha preaches a sermon. And the two pagodas symbolize the incarnations of Buddha. Seokgatap symbolizes Sakyamuni, or Buddha, and Dabotap is the incarnation of Buddha's previous existence. Buddha's former life sprouted out of the earth in the shape of a pagoda to prove the truth of Buddha's sermon. Henceforth, Dabotap had to be of grandeur, decorated with all kinds of treasures to verify the magnificent truth of Buddha.
The two pagodas symbolize the ideal land that people of Silla believed in. The granite towers have informed us of myths, legends, history and culture for 1,200 years. But an archaeologist reported in Sep-tember this year that these two towers were leaning due to weakness in the bedrock foundation.
The city government of Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Silla Dynasty, said last week that another tower in the temple of Gameunsa as well as Dabotap and Seokgatap would be repaired.
Like stone pagodas that have witnessed more than a thousand years of history, we all long for a president who will take care of cultural relics, regardless of the season, without complaining.
The writer is popular culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Oh Byung-sang