[Letters] Returning Korean cultural relics
Right after the news broke that the Joseon Dynasty royal texts taken out of Korea during the Japanese occupation period were being kept in the Japanese royal palace, the media and political circles appealed furiously and demanded that Japan return the Korean relics as soon as possible.
So, what has been resolved? It is not an easy job to get back cultural assets.
The return movement of over 100,000 overseas Korean cultural artifacts is not a momentary event.
And an emotional response showing how we are aggrieved that our cultural relics have been stolen does not do any good.
Like the story “Sun and Wind” in Aesop’s fables, if we rage against Japan, they will only try to hide the fact that they possess our heritage relics.
I think that persistent and elaborate diplomatic policy is necessary.
We should think of a way to pull the Japanese government to the negotiation table.
And we should overcome the defeatist thinking that we cannot receive the stolen cultural heritages because the problem is too difficult to solve.
There were cases we got back our cultural artifacts from Japan. In 1992, the custom of Mrs. Lee Bangja, the so-called “Custom of Queen Yeongchin,” was returned from the Japanese government, and the “Bukhan Daecheopji” was returned to North Korea after many long years of staying in the Yasukuni shrine.
If our government and NGOs keep on endeavoring to prove the illegal taking of our cultural properties and give Japan no choice but to return the relics, we will certainly get back all the cultural artifacts.
We have no accurate data of which cultural artifacts have been taken from Korea and by which route.
This should be investigated as soon as possible.
I believe that the strong interest of the Korean people in the stolen cultural relics will be the driving force for Korean diplomacy to make efforts in returning the relics.
In addition, we also should pay attention to getting back relics from modern times.
On April 9, I saw in the Joongang Ilbo that Mun Hong-ryeol, the president of HB group, has tracked down and bought the remaining items of Horace Newton Allen, the father of Korean modern medicine, and donated them to a related organization.
Because modern day relics act as a connecting bridge that can explain the current situation of Korea, they are as valuable as ancient cultural artifacts.
Of course, the way to get back overseas Korean relics is not a paved road.
But, I believe that our rational and persistent concerns and efforts can make it possible to restore our lost cultural assets.
Yangchung High school student