Korean fossils are her passionKang Won-ju, 52, has one of the largest collections of Korean fossils in the country. In her house in Seoul and a warehouse in the country are about 10,000 fossils; only a part of the collection has been lent to researchers for study purposes.
Ms. Kang first began collecting fossils after she visited a natural science museum while on a trip abroad in the late 1970s. She first began buying rare foreign fossils, but then starting looking for Korean fossils.
“Some people make fun of me for being patriotic about fossils but I think it has more to do with self-respect than patriotism,” Ms. kang said. “About 10 years ago, several Japanese local governments offered me a lot of money for my fossil collection, but I refused. Already, many rare Korean fossils have gone to Japan, especially during the colonial period. I think Korean fossils should be owned by Korean people and be exhibited at Korean museums.”
Ms. Kang runs an art institute and she says she spends all of her income buying fossils. When her husband, a public servant, was positioned in the mining city of Taebaik in Gangwon province in the 1980s, she spent all of her earnings on buying fossils from the miners.
“Mines are perfect places to find fossils. Before a law was created preventing such acts, I even went to construction sites and looked for fossils myself. The construction workers shooed me away, but I rummaged through the rubble with my chisel and mallet,” she said.
Ms. Kang hopes one day to open her own museum.
“I lend parts of my collection for exhibitions, but someday I hope to have a private museum to house my full collection,” she said. “Many natural science museums have opened in Korea, but most display foreign fossils. If we want to make museums to attract foreigners, we have to have a lot of our own fossils to show them.”
by Shin Ye-ri