Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration to Establish Updated System for Cultural Heritage Items

Jonathan Feel
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Domestic Korean artworks created after 1946 can be exported abroad without restrictions. However, under the current laws and regulations, artworks over 50 years old can be exhibited or sold overseas only with government permission. While a new law is being developed to change this, a base will be established in France for the preservation and return of cultural heritage items, including ancient artworks.

Commemorative stamps featuring recovered cultural heritage items. Image courtesy of The Cultural Heritage Administration.
Commemorative stamps featuring recovered cultural heritage items. Image courtesy of The Cultural Heritage Administration.

The Korean Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) has come up with major policy plans for this year. As Korean artworks have been restricted from being exported overseas for more than 50 years since they were made, art market officials, including auction houses, have constantly demanded that the current law be revised. Despite the growing demand for Korean artworks to be purchased and exhibited overseas, some artworks were blocked from being exported overseas due to the long-standing regulations.

The CHA explained that the reason for setting the reference point as works produced after 1946 was that the number of works has increased since 1945, forming an art market, and it was considering various factors such as the appearance of full-time artists. The CHA expects that it will help promote Korean art abroad and secure competitiveness. The relevant legal system will be reorganized within this year, and the contents and scope of the revision will be confirmed later.

In particular, the CHA will introduce a system that adopts the concept of “heritage” instead of the term “relict of past” or “goods.” The CHA will divide existing cultural assets into “cultural heritage,” “natural heritage,” and “intangible heritage,” and support preservation and transmission activities to suit each cultural heritage item’s characteristics. The CHA will also change its name to “National Heritage Administration” and re-launch in May. “It means that the state will take responsibility and manage and oversee all heritages,” said Choi Eung-Chon, head of the CHA.

In addition, efforts will be made to preserve, utilize and return Korean cultural heritage items that have been leaked overseas and expand the UNESCO listings. According to the CHA’s estimate, 246,304 cultural heritage items have been leaked from Korea for various reasons, including diplomatic gifts, donations and illegal leaks. The CHA plans to set up an office in Paris, France, following Japan and the U.S., to investigate, preserve and utilize the heritages in Europe, where about 20 percent of them are located. It will also build a database of about 1,800 Korean photographs at the monastery of Saint-Otilien in Germany, which returned the paintings of painter Jeongseon during the Joseon Dynasty through permanent rental in 2005.

As overseas interest in Korean traditional culture and representative heritage increases, the CHA plans to expand the international influence of Korean heritage by providing more accurate related information and international joint research investment projects.

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Jonathan Feel
Jonathan Feel

Jonathan Feel is a reporter and editor for Auction Daily in Korea. He has been active in various fields such as the media, social economy, village community, and fair trade coffee industry and is writing. It is recognized that art is not far from society and the times, and that art can be a tool for the sustainability of the Earth and mankind. He hopes that good works and artists in Korea will meet with readers.

김이준수는 한국 주재 옥션데일리 필진이자 편집자이다. 언론, 사회적경제, 마을공동체, 공정무역 커피업계 등 다양한 분야에서 활동했고 글을 쓰고 있다. 예술이 사회·시대와 동떨어져 있지 않으며, 예술이 지구와 인류의 지속가능성을 위한 도구가 될 수 있음을 인식하고 있다. 한국의 좋은 작품과 아티스트를 많이 소개하고 싶다.

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