A call to preserve Korea’s historyKorea should take more of an interest in the research and preservation of historical artifacts, according to archeologist Choi Moo-jang.
At the age of 65, Mr. Choi retired from his professor’s position at Konkuk University earlier this year, but the only thing “old” about him is the specimens that he handles.
Mr. Choi established and runs a private museum in the somewhat remote region of Eundae-li, Gyeonggi province. The museum showcases 1,000 historical artifacts from Korea’s prehistoric age, as well as 300 “newer” items that date after the Samguk, or Three Kingdoms, era.
“Japan’s old stone age history was shorter than that of Korea’s, but there is more research being done in Japan. Korea also has many historical sites, but people don’t realize the importance of studying and preserving them,” Mr. Choi said.
In 1996, Mr. Choi discovered the largest early stone age historical site in Korea near the shore of the Imjin River in Yeoncheon County, Gyeonggi province. The site dates back 300,000 to 500,000 years.
“At the time, I was captivated by collecting artifacts by river banks,” he recalled. “At the site in Yeoncheon, I discovered about 130 artifacts. The objects were mainly rugged tools used in farming.”
“Right now, I am taking care of the museum on my own, but when my youngest daughter has learned enough, she will join me,” Mr. Choi said. His daughter studied archeology at Korea University and is currently a junior employee at the Seoul Museum of History.
Mr. Choi repeatedly expressed his sorrow and concern on development.
“The areas next to the Hantan and Imjin Rivers are full of relics from both prehistoric and historic times, but many of those areas are now going through construction in the name of regional development,” he said. “The land is being recklessly dug up, which destroys all the artifacts.”
The Yeoncheon Prehistoric Museum has two main indoor exhibition rooms, an outdoor exhibition and a library.
Most of the relics on display are various tools, weapons and pottery. It is open only on weekends.
“Since the opening of the museum, I have permanently moved my research base out of Seoul. I am going to spend more time on studies as well as teaching others,” Mr. Choi said. “I really enjoy it when guests request an explanation.”
by Jeon Ik-jeon