Exhibition examines role of National Museum of Korea during Korean War

By Song Seung-hyun

Published : Jun 29, 2020 - 10:13
Updated : Jun 29, 2020 - 10:18

A bell fragment from the Seollimwon Buddhist temple displayed at the special exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean War titled “The Museum&The War” (NMK YouTube Screenshot)

National Museum of Korea on Thursday opened a special exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean War titled “The Museum & The War.”

“Through this exhibition, visitors can find out the role of the National Museum of Korea and how some of the cultural heritage were damaged during the wartime,” said Choi Seon-ju, head of curatorial affairs office at the National Museum of Korea, during a press conference Friday held ahead of its opening.

The exhibition is largely divided into two parts. The first part deals with cultural heritages that were damaged during the wartime. A highlight of the section is a bell fragment from the Seollimwon Buddhist temple.

“This bell shows how war can destroy cultural heritage and how it is impossible to return it to the previous state once it is damaged,” the museum curator Kang Min-kyeong, who planned and organized the exhibition, said.

The second part of the exhibition shows the role that the national museum played during the Korean War.

“The museum staff at the time wrapped the items as slowly as possible to prevent North Koreans from quickly taking away the items,” Kang explained.

The exhibition also shows how it had to move the facility to Busan in December of 1950 and also send some of the items abroad to protect them.

Korean abstract painting master Kim Whan-ki’s painting “Stone,” which was one of the artworks shown during an exhibition held in 1953 at the museum.

“The notes displayed below the paintings were written by artists Kim Whan-ki and Lee Jung-seob. These show the artists’ determination to continue exhibiting during wartime,” Kang added.

“When people think of war, they tend to think of the image of people with guns. However, we see that the national museum’s effort to keep the items safe and continue with exhibitions and excavations during the time is another side of the war,” Kang said.

“Personally, as a curator, I feel respect for those who worked hard to secure the cultural heritage at the time. During wartime, protecting items could mean risking their lives but still, they still did it to secure treasures of our ancestors,” Kang added.

Along with the special exhibition, the museum also provides information about items located in the permanent exhibition halls that were damaged during the war.
 

National Museum of Korea curator Kang Min-kyeong, who planned and organized the special exhibition marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean War titled “The Museum&The War” (NMK YouTube Screenshot)


The exhibition opens Wednesday and runs through Sept. 13. Since the museum is temporarily shut down due to the spread of COVID-19, it is presenting its special exhibition through its online website and YouTube channel first.

The video clip which guides the visitors through the exhibition, however, is only available in Korean.

“We will have to prepare the service in English (in the future),” Choi told The Korea Herald.

By Song Seung-hyun (ssh@heraldcorp.com)

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The Korea Herald by Herald Corporation