|Saenamteo Catholic Church, Seoul|
Monday, 1 October 2012
A magnificent golden crown with ‘antlers’ is perhaps the most extraordinary exhibit in the museum dating from this time, and there is coverage of the Silla capital, Gyeongju, which i realised i ought to try to visit if possible. After Silla, in the 10th century there came the Goryeo period, from which we derive the English word Korea, marked by a continued flourishing of Buddhism, and scientific advances like the invention of the metal moveable type printing press in the 1300s, but also a need, as in Poland, Ukraine, Russia and elsewhere, to make an accommodation with the Mongols. At the end of the 14th century, amid discord between Buddhist and Confucian scholars, Goryeo was superseded by the Joseon dynasty, which survived until 1897 (though North Korea styles itself ‘Joseon’ to this day). The museum presented a fascinating picture of many of these things; but to my chagrin there was nothing whatever relating to the 20th century, and nor in fact anything much after 1700. Such ‘recent’ history is deemed too hot a political potato, especially perhaps because there are sometimes exchanges of artefacts with museums in North Korea; all bones of contention are avoided. One might speculate that this situation could persist until the Holy Grail, as it were, of Korean archaeology is discovered; a legendary flute called Manpasikjeok, from the age of Silla, said to be endowed with a power to heal all the worries and cares of the country and its people. My suggestion though, which i put in a designated comment box (in English of course), was that the museum should stage a special exhibition looking at the experience of 20th century Germany.