New National Museum

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New National Museum


Oct 31, 2005

The National Museum of Korea reopened at its new, permanent home in Yongsan, Seoul, yesterday. We are more than proud that the nation now has a national museum befitting its long, rich history and cultural heritage. It is additionally meaningful that the museum reopened in the year marking the 60th anniversary of national liberation from Japan's colonial rule.

It was a shame that the National Museum had to move around to six different places since its establishment in 1945. It is more painful to recall that its last home was none other than the building that housed the Japanese governor-general's office during the colonial period.

There may be another bitter historical irony in that the area where the museum stands now was once occupied by the armed forces from China's Ching Dynasty and Japan's imperial government. Part of the museum site was also used by the U.S. military, which still remains in the neighborhood but plans to relocate completely by 2008. Seeing the magnificent museum looking over the area, one must take a great deal of pride in a nation that has overcome so many hardships in its history and made what it is now.

Its historic significance aside, the new museum, built over the past eight years, boasts grandeur in many respects. It has a collection of about 150,000 relics, about 11,000 of which are on display. The museum's seven-story main building is 404 meters long and 186 meters wide. Its indoor exhibition space divided into 51 halls is the world's sixth largest.

Adding to its rich collections and architectural magnificence are an 800-seat theater, a children's museum and a library, as well as arts and crafts shops, cafeterias and restaurants. Museum officials deserve praise for working to make it a place for a variety of activities and programs offering education, fun and entertainment. The role of museums cannot be emphasized too much, especially in an age when a growing number of young generations are tilted toward shallow popular culture.

We also hope that the National Museum will play the central role in networking the nation's 400 public and private museums and work together with them to enhance their standards. Having more people visit museums is certainly one of the things we need to do to make the country one that cherishes and takes pride in its history and heritage and appreciates culture and arts.

Also important will be promoting cooperation with foreign museums to help Koreans get a better understanding of the history and culture of others and help foreigners learn more about Korea and its people. Museum officials were well advised to include the Asian Hall, which features countries like Japan and China, with whom Korea shares some cultural heritage.

One point of regret: the foreign language section of the museum's website was not working until the day of its opening. The section, which now only lists English, Japanese and Chinese, also needs to be expanded to include such languages as Spanish, French and Arabic.


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