Korean paper receives Italian seal of approval

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Korean paper receives Italian seal of approval

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Hanji, or Korean mulberry paper [CULTURAL HERITAGE ADMINISTRATION]

Hanji, or Korean traditional mulberry paper, has been officially acknowledged as an appropriate material for restoring and preserving artifacts by an organization that operates under the culture ministry of Italy.

Italy’s Central Institute for Restoration and Conservation of Archival and Library Heritage (Icpal) has issued a certificate on hanji, Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) announced on Thursday.

Two types of hanji have won approval. Both are the types made by master hanji artisan Sin Hyeon-se of Uiryeong County, South Gyeongsang. The Italian institution conducts various scientific and technological examinations before issuing such certificates.

The news comes after more than a year of attempts by the Korean government, academia and civic activists to encourage Italy to restore its artifacts, such as ancient documents and paintings, using the Korean paper.

To prove its quality, hanji has already been used to restore five of Italy’s important cultural heritage items.

These include the 1224 writing by Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) on a parchment measuring 10 centimeters by 13.5 centimeters (4 inches by 5.3 inches).

On one side he wrote the “Praises of God” and on the other, the “Blessing Given to Brother Leo.”

This relic, according to Korea’s CHA, will be on display at Icpal to celebrate Korean hanji’s reception.

“This marks the first time that hanji received an official approval for restoration of cultural heritage items from a foreign institution,” CHA’s researcher Kim Sun-gwan said through a press release. “Italy is one of the countries in Europe with the highest number of cultural heritage items. We hope hanji’s usage will expand at foreign restoration institutions.”

Hanji is known for its durability, and pieces have been found that are over 1,500 years old. Due to its strength, Koreans have used it for many things, from window coverings to fans.

BY KIM HYUNG-EUN [hkim@joongang.co.kr]

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