1,000 years of trade in new exhibit

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1,000 years of trade in new exhibit

Korea's economy depends much on foreign trade and exchanges with other countries, but that's hardly anything new. Although Korea has long been known as the hermit kingdom, it actually has had a lot of trade going on since the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), and continuing into the reclusive Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

Now the National Museum of Korea, central Seoul, is holding an exhibition that traces the history of Korea's foreign exchanges as seen in a collection of old artifacts.

The exhibition, "A Dynamic World of External Relations in the Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties," will run through Oct. 13 to celebrate the 2002 Busan Asian Games. "The international exchanges of the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties have not been given much scholarly attention before," says Ji Gon-gil, the director of the National Museum, "though interest is now increasing with the current globalization."

The exhibition consists of 350 artifacts. They include old Chinese coins discovered in Korea and Goryeo dynasty epitaphs that tell how the tombs' inhabitants served as envoys to the Song, Jin and Yuan dynasties of China. An official document written in Tibetan from a Yuan Dynasty temple to a Goryeo Dynasty temple helps to show the exchanges of Buddhist culture between the two countries.

The artifacts also include paintings that describe the parade of Joseon envoys to China and Japan and those envoys' diaries. There are also Joseon textbooks about the Chinese and Japanese languages for official translators.

Also at the exhibition are remains from a sunken Chinese merchant ship of the 14th century, discovered near the coast of South Jeolla province in 1976. The remains include various Chinese, Korean and Japanese ceramics and other goods.

Another interesting part of the exhibition are world maps made in the early Joseon Dynasty and others imported from Western countries via China in the late Joseon Dynasty. While the Korean maps reflect the Sinocentrism in much of Korea's history, the Western maps led the scholars of the Joseon Dynasty to change their world view.

by Moon So-young

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