Collector donates hundreds of artifacts to Korea

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Collector donates hundreds of artifacts to Korea

A Korean-American plans to donate hundreds of precious artifacts and antiques he has collected to his mother country.
“For decades, I’ve collected Korean artifacts, but I never thought I owned them.

I am just safekeeping them. It is about time to reflect on my life, and I will return these cultural properties to society,” said Chester Chang, 67, who was born in Korea and now resides in Los Angeles. His Korean name is Chang Chung-ki.
The Federal Aviation Administration director visited Korea on Oct. 29 and donated 20 items including Joseon dynasty ceramics, a cabinet inlaid with mother-of-pearl and paintings to the Kyunggi Girls High School Gyeongun Museum.
He intends to contribute 40 weapons and pieces of armor including rifles from the mid-Joseon period to the National Museum of Korea and to give the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art dozens of artifacts including a portrait of Jeong Mong-ju, a Goryeo dynasty official.
For the last 40 years, Mr. Chang has collected over 1,000 Korean artifacts. He has already donated half of his collection to museums in the United States and Korea. The remaining artifacts include Buddhist paintings from the Silla and Goryeo dynasties, ceramic items and swords from the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties and paintings by Kim Hong-do, Heo Baek-ryeon and Lee Jung-sup. Mr. Chang also collects artifacts from China, India, the Middle East, Tibet, Vietnam and Latin America.
Mr. Chang was introduced to collecting by his father, who was a diplomat.

When the older Mr. Chang went to work in the Korean Embassy to the United States in the early 1950s, he took hundreds of artifacts with him in the hope of introducing Korean culture to America. In 1958, the family immigrated to the United States.
After obtaining a pilot’s license that same year, the younger Mr. Chang traveled and collected artifacts from around the world.
“Pilots made a lot of money in the past, and I spent half of what I earned on artifacts. I have spent millions of dollars in the last 30 years. It would be impossible to estimate the value of my collections,” he said.
Seong Nak-jun, an official at the National Museum of Korea, said he plans to visit Mr. Chang’s Los Angeles residence and examine the collections this year.
“Joseon dynasty swords are very rare. I have high expectations,” Mr. Seong said.

by Lee Jae-hoon
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