Four arrested after ancient burial sites found looted

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Four arrested after ancient burial sites found looted

Authorities said Tuesday that they had rounded up four people who illegally excavated two ancient burial sites in Gyeongsan, North Gyeongsang.

According to the Gyeongsan Police Precinct, those arrested include a 65-year-old antique dealer surnamed Park, who is alleged to have stolen artifacts from the two graves. They are questioning three others employed by Park for the project.

“We suspect that they began digging near the burial sites in January last year to make a hole large enough for a man to crawl in,” said a police officer. “They dug the hole gradually at night over two months.”

Police added that the burial mounds were surrounded by dense woods before being recently refurbished.

Investigators confiscated 38 artifacts from the graves, including golden earrings, silver swords, crowns and belts, though they believe the suspects made away with more artifacts.

“We believe they’ve probably sold most of the artifacts they acquired from the graves,” said the police officer. “With that information, we are looking for the ones that were already sold.”

The area is where Abdokguk, a small ancient country, existed before it surrendered to the Shilla Dynasty (57 B.C. to 935 A.D.) in the second century. The burial mounds are known as where the descendants of Abdokguk were put to rest between the fourth and sixth centuries.

Unlike the thousands of other ancient graves in the area found in 1982, the burial sites were discovered and investigated in April. Experts then found suspicious holes around the site and reported it to authorities.

Experts say the artifacts are priceless for their historical value.

“Many of the confiscated artifacts are made of gold or silver, and they look like they were gifts to the aristocrats of Abdokguk from the Silla Dynasty because similar-looking artifacts were excavated in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang,” said Ham Sun-seok, the president of the Daegu National Museum. “The artifacts also support the existence of Abdokguk.”

To promote the area’s history, the Gyeongsan city government and the Daegu University Central Museum recently established a field trip program to the burial sites and other historic spots, a project that is also funded by the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) and the North Gyeongsang Provincial Government.

BY KIM YOUN-HO, KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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