Ministry to head cultural inspection

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Ministry to head cultural inspection

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced yesterday that it will conduct a general inspection on cultural properties nationwide along with the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA).

The CHA came under fire recently amid revelations that the country’s key treasures - including Sungnyemun (National Treasure No. 1); Seokguram Grotto (National Treasure No. 24); and the Tripitaka Koreana Woodblocks (National Treasure No. 32) - had sustained damage either in their restorations or from poor maintenance.

“Through the inspection, we will make an in-depth analysis of the problems,” the Culture Ministry said in a statement. “We hope to break away from the existing system, which was limited to follow-up repairs and maintenance [of cultural properties], and adopt a new preventive system through regular monitoring.”

The main target, the ministry says, is architectural heritage, especially those properties highly vulnerable because of their materials, age and exposure.

Architectural heritage, CHA officials explained, includes buildings, pagodas and caves made of wood, stone or other materials.

Until February of next year, the ministry and the CHA will inspect 1,447 state-designated properties (of a total 3,500). And until April, they will inspect 5,305 city- or provincially designated properties (of a total 7,793).

According to the plan, the two organizations will take special care of key treasures popular among the public. They will also form an inspection team comprised of about a hundred outside experts.

“Given the urgency and importance of the matter, we will exert all of our administrative capabilities [into the inspection],” Cho Hyun-jae, the vice minister of culture, told reporters at a press briefing yesterday. “Through the inspection, we will improve what needs to be improved, and correct any misunderstandings, so that we can alleviate the public’s concerns on the maintenance of cultural properties.”

The poor maintenance of the country’s cultural heritage sites has been making headlines since October, when lawmakers and the media first raised the issue.

This development prompted President Park Geun-hye, who has a keen interest in cultural properties, to take action. On Nov. 11, she ordered a thorough investigation into the issue. A few days later, sources at the Blue House confirmed that Byun Young-sup, the head of the CHA, was being replaced.

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