The Cultural Heritage Administration has announced that it will return the signboard of Gwanghwamun to its original color of “black background and golden letters.” Some point out the need to look back into the cultural agency’s process of ignoring the opinion of numerous cultural heritage researchers and civic groups, stubbornly insisting the wrong decision.
“We have carried out scientific analysis and experiment by producing experi
mental signboards and filming it black and white," the cultural agency stated Tuesday at a meeting held at the Korea House in central Seoul, confirming the original Gwanghwamun signboard had a “black background and golden letters.” The Cultural Heritage Administration has turned out to have virtually ignored suspicions over insufficient historical research raised by the media and civic groups over the past decade.
The issue concerning the color of the signboard first came out in 2005. Back then, Yoo Hong-joon, head of the Cultural Heritage Administration, released a photograph of Gwanghwamun in 1916 that the National Museum of Korea housed, saying that the letters in the signboard made by Lim Tae-yeong, a general of training during the late Joseon Dynasty, were restored. Nevertheless, the cultural agency restored the signboard of Gwanghwamun with “white background and black letters” in August 2010 as it is now without any proper historical research. The Signboard Restoration Subcommittee, which was held in July 2010, did not even identify the grounds for such decision.
The Cultural Heritage Administration started to review the color of the signboard from scratch when Kim Yeong-joon, head of Finding where Cultural Heritages Belong, discovered and released a photograph of Gwanghwamun, which was taken around 1893 and stored at the Smithsonian Institution's National Anthropological Archives in the United States. The signboard in the photograph clearly revealed bright colored letters in dark background. When questioned about the rather late verification experiment, the Cultural Heritage Administration said, “There were no historical research materials before the photo from Smithsonian Institution.” However, there had been ample materials that implied the dark background and bright colored letters of the signboard.
The agency has said that it will compare the pros and cons of the experimental signboards after coloring it with modern pigment and traditional pigment, and install the actual signboard with a black background and golden letters in the first quarter of next year.
Jong-Yeob JO firstname.lastname@example.org