Con­tro­versy about metal type reignites

Law­maker calls for re-ex­am­in­ing of ‘Je­ung­do­gaja’

The Korea Times - - CULTURE - By Kwon Mee-yoo [email protected]­re­

“Je­ung­do­gaja,” a set of metal mov­able type which was de­clared in 2017 not to be the old­est in the world, has been brought to at­ten­tion once again dur­ing a Na­tional Assem­bly au­dit ses­sion on the Cul­tural Her­itage Ad­min­is­tra­tion (CHA), Mon­day.

The 101 pieces of metal mov­able type be­came known to the pub­lic in 2010 by Kyung­pook Na­tional Uni­ver­sity bib­li­og­ra­phy pro­fes­sor Nam Kwon-hee. Nam and an­tique dealer Kim Jong-chun in­sisted that the set of metal type was used to print “Nam­myeong Cheon­hwa Sang­song Je­ung­doga,” a Bud­dhist book pub­lished around 1239 dur­ing the 9181392 Go­ryeo King­dom. If ap­proved as authen­tic, it would have sur­passed “Jikji,” the old­est known metal type made in 1377, by over 100 years.

In 2011, Kim’s wife ap­plied for cul­tural prop­erty sta­tus of the met­al­loid type to the CHA.

How­ever, af­ter years of de­bate, the CHA re­jected the re­quest in 2017, con­clud­ing that it is dif­fi­cult to con­firm the type’s ex­act pro­duc­tion date from sci­en­tific ev­i­dence such as metal com­po­nent anal­y­sis or ra­dio­car­bon dat­ing of ink due to lack of cred­i­bil­ity in the preser­va­tion en­vi­ron­ment.

“There were some in­suf­fi­cien­cies in the process when the Je­ung­do­gaja was re­jected to be listed as a state cul­tural prop­erty in 2017. Ac­cord­ing to the steno­graphic records, the com­mit­tee mem­bers do not negate the pos­si­bil­ity of the metal type be­ing made dur­ing Go­ryeo King­dom. The CHA should have con­tin­ued re­search­ing and pre­serv­ing it con­sid­er­ing its value,” Demo­cratic Party of Ko­rea (DPK) law­maker Chung Sye-kyun said.

Rep. Chung urged the CHA to pro­tect Ko­rea’s legacy of metal type as China is pre­par­ing to sub­mit metal mov­able type for in­clu­sion on UNESCO’s World Her­itage List.

“Some are wor­ry­ing about the out­flow of the metal type over­seas in the short­hand re­port,” Rep. Chung said.

Chung Jae-suk, chief of the CHA, an­swered that she looked into the process and ex­perts re­searched and an­a­lyzed the metal types mul­ti­ple times. Chung was not head of the state-run or­ga­ni­za­tion back then.

“The Na­tional Re­search In­sti­tute of Cul­tural Her­itage and out­side spe­cial­ists ran a se­ries of sci­en­tific tests and com­pared the type­face. I don’t think there was any im­proper bias in the ver­i­fi­ca­tion process,” Chung said. “We will con­tinue to col­lect more con­crete data on Je­ung­do­gaja to make progress in the re­search and look back into pre­vi­ous de­lib­er­a­tions on the metal type.”

Da­bo­sung An­tique, owner of the metal type, re­vealed all 101 pieces of the set to the pub­lic for the first time at the Na­tional Assem­bly in­spec­tion.


Chung Jae-suk, sec­ond from right, chief of the Cul­tural Her­itage Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and law­mak­ers look at “je­ung­do­gaja,” a set of metal mov­able type, dur­ing a Na­tional Assem­bly au­dit of the cul­ture agency, Mon­day.

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