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Helping restore historic relics
JANUARY 10, 2014 02:48  
The construction of the Aswan Dam in Egypt put the country`s historic Abu Simbel temples on the brinks of being under water in the 1960s. The international community went to the rescue to save the relics of Ramesses II. The stone temples were cut into more than 1,000 pieces to be relocated over a period of four years. Member countries of the UNESCO shared the expenses of 42 million U.S. dollars. South Korea, despite being a very poor country at that time, chipped in about 500,000 dollars, as the temples were not just a historic site of one country but the humanity`s common cultural heritage.

Like the Abu Simbel temples before restoration, there are numerous relic sites around the world that have been destroyed or damaged. Typical examples include Angkor temples in Cambodia that crumbled during wars and over a long period of time, the Buddha of Bamiyan in Afghanistan that were destroyed by the Taliban, and the Mesopotamian relics in Iraq. Among them, the Angkor Wat, which is so grand and beautiful as to be named one of the "seven mysteries of the world," has become the venue where many countries show off their national power and restoration capabilities.

France, which first discovered Angkor Wat in the jungles of Cambodia in 1868, began a restoration project led by its state-funded research institute EFEO in 1908, and the project still goes on. Currently, 28 organizations from 16 countries, including Japan, Germany and China, are carrying out 28 restoration projects. After plunging into restoring the site in 1991, Japan set up various organizations to restore colossal city of Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple.

The Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation has initiated a project to restore Hong Nang Sida inside an Angkor temple in Laos. The temple is a historic structure that is believed to have been built by ancestors of Jayavarman VII, a Khmer king who built Angkor Wat. Archaeological site restoration is not one-sided aid but a project of highest dimension in official direct assistance in which Korea can accumulate its own technology and experiences while contributing to public interest at the same time. Korea, albeit a slower starter than Japan and China, has the know-how and finesse of having restored the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress and registered it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Korean experts are hoped to do a great job in restoring Hong Nang Sida to show off the country`s reputation as a cultural power.

Editorial Writer Chung Seong-hui (shchung@donga.com)

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