Statue painted without permission
It stands in the middle of the institute’s fourth exhibition hall, “The March First Independence Movement,” as the statue is dedicated to the movement that took place nationwide on March 1, 1919.
It has been there since the institute, which celebrates Korea’s liberation from Japanese colonization (1910-45), opened back in 1987. It also appears in the Korean school textbooks.
What is odd is that the statue, originally bronze, is now white.
JTBC, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, recently found out that the officials at the institute painted it white eight years ago without even bothering to get consent from sculptor Park Choong-heum.
Park told JTBC that he only found out about the change three years ago by accident.
“An employee of the Korea Minting, Security Printing & ID Card Operating Corporation visited me saying he wished to use the image of the statue as the backdrop for commemorative coins for Yu Gwan-sun [an independence fighter],” he said.
Park approved, but when he got the sample from the company, the statue appeared white. And that’s how he found out.
“It’s the strength of bronze,” he said, “that with age it wears out and changes color. If I wanted it colored, I wouldn’t have made it in bronze in the first place and rather used plaster or plastic.”
An official at the Independence Hall said that in the process of changing some exhibits in 2007, officials painted it white “to make it more harmonious with other exhibits nearby,” adding that the sculpture is more of a “product for exhibition,” rather than an artwork.
As the issue enraged many Koreans after the JTBC report on Tuesday, just three days after Korea celebrated the 70th anniversary of Liberation Day, Independence Hall has been in the hot seat.
“It’s true that we didn’t discuss [painting it white] with the artist,” the official told Yonhap News Agency. “As we will change exhibits next year, we will decide whether or not to restore it to its original form.”
The official added that when they painted it white, they made sure to use vinyl paints, after discussing it with experts, in case they needed to restore it to its original condition.
The official website of the Independence Hall of Korea, as of Friday, still features the white “March First Spirit” sculpture as the main image for its fourth exhibition hall, “The March First Independence Movement.”
BY KIM HYE-MI, KIM HYUNG-EUN