[FOUNTAIN]Unity shown in study of tomb murals“The mural paintings in Goguryeo-period tombs are the best oriental paintings,” wrote painter and art historian Kim Yong-jun at the beginning of the “The Outline of Joseon Arts.” Mr. Kim wrote that if he looked at a Goguryeo mural, it is so mystic and powerful that it felt like he was standing in front of a waterfall, not a painting.
Indeed, he wasn’t exaggerating. The powerful panorama of the murals is as grand as a waterfall. In June 2004, a team from the JoongAng Ilbo visited the tombs with murals near Pyeongyang and reported, “It feels like we have ridden in a time machine and come to Goguryeo. You will never get tired of this grandeur.” Korea University Professor Choe Jong-taeg, who was with the JoongAng Ilbo team, was trembling with excitement and said, “The lines are so vivid as if the painters have just completed the mural.” Designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO in July 2004, the Goguryeo tombs have the power to move visitors.
Ri Seung-hyeok of North Korea’s Cultural Preservation Bureau showed South Korean reporters around the ancient tombs. During the tour, Mr. Ri displayed in-depth knowledge on the murals and relics. Having majored in Goguryeo history from Kim Il Sung University, he spoke of the murals with affection. He said that time has ruined many of the murals. Because of a lack of funds, the murals do not get proper preservation treatment. About 3,000 tombs haven’t been excavated there.
The Goguryeo Research Foundation announced that South and North Korean scholars would jointly investigate the Goguryeo tombs near Pyeongyang. Mr. Ri must be most happy to hear the news. He had said that there was no demarcation line in the study of Goguryeo and suggested that the South and the North should work together to preserve the murals. To Mr. Ri, who considers Goguryeo “the spiritual home that brings the South and the North together,” both South and North Koreans are the descendants of Goguryeo.
The mural located in Gangseo-gu, Nampo, is about the mythical love story of Gyeonu and Jiknyeo separated by the Milky Way. The couple in the painting is so real that you might imagine that you can hear their songs of love. Just like Gyeonu and Jiknyeo, South Korean and North Korean scholars will meet in the tomb. It’s a model relationship for the two Koreas.
by Chung Jae-suk
The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.