When sentimental value just isn’t enough

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When sentimental value just isn’t enough

What we do in the name of easy money. In my case, my hope lies in three porcelains and a calligraphy scroll, heirlooms from the Joseon Dynasty. My quest began with something much more modern.
Recently, I gave in to the seduction of material happiness and bought two Lotto tickets, wishing for a giant windfall. I actually used to sneer at the Lotto craze that has taken the whole nation by storm. But I’m only human after all ― always ready to take in a little bit of luck with open arms.
It began with a nerve-racking nightmare I had late last month. A blood-soaked ghost appeared and the apparition had her bloodshot eyes fixed on me when I was barely able to wake up. Being a superstitious sort, I checked out a dream reader’s Web site. It said: “An apparition in your dreams stands for unexpected gains.” Bingo. In a life-is-beautiful mood, I ran all the way to the kiosk and bought the Lotto tickets. But three days later and none the richer, I returned to my good old lottery-skeptic viewpoint.
But I have not lost all hope for a windfall; I’ve just changed my focus. Instead, I’m a big fan of “Jinpum Myeongpum” (Curios and Valuables) on KBS1-TV on Sunday at 11 a.m. Average Joes come out with family treasures, craving to hear the appraiser assign a lengthy string of zeroes to its value.
On a recent show, a middle-aged woman came out with three petite pieces of celadon that turned out to be from the Goryeo Dynasty and worth a lot of won.
After introducing the treasures, first she (and we viewers) had to deal with the “Show Appraisers,” which on this day included a comedian who had seen her best days in the early 1990s. To her side was a voice actor and TV personality whose name I cannot quite recall. The last member of the group was introduced as Michael, an English teacher wearing traditional Korean clothes, who was said to have a better command of Korean than most Koreans do.
The three, holding magnifying glasses, gave their opinions about the antiques. Handling the all-too-fragile celadon, the three admired the color, although their attempts to pay compliments to it in archaeological lingo were not very successful. The comedian said the chrysanthemum pattern looked like tulips, while the voice actor said he’d like to drink shots from the celadon. Michael kept it glib.
After such heated debate, the three came up with their own appraisals, followed by the client’s personal estimate. The middle-aged woman guessed 4 million won ($3,300) for the three celadon.
Then it was time for the real pros to give the antiques a good look. There was good news for the guest on this day ― the estimated price of the three celadon reached 23 million won. After the announcement of the price, the experts explain how they determined the value. Their objective and insightful explanations are a major reason people tune into the program, which has been going strong for eight years.
“The program was launched to awaken people’s thoughts of the antiques that have been handed down to them,” says Park Yong-tae, the producer. “Many people actually keep such treasures idle at home, not knowing their true value.”
The most valuable antique the program ever found turned up at this week’s taping ― a folding screen from the Joseon Dynasty valued at 550 million won. The lowest estimated price, on the other hand, was a fake piece of calligraphy, worth a whopping 1 won.
So on Sunday mornings, I smooth down the china and calligraphy scroll, while watching “Curios and Valuables.” And I find myself wanting another dream of a ghost, as long as it says: “Your ancestors left a big fortune.”


by Chun Su-jin
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