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China's state museum pulls controversial table of Korean history from exhibit

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A chronology of ancient Korean history excluding two ancient Korean kingdoms ― Goguryeo and Balhae ― before it was pulled from an exhibition held in the National Museum of China. Captured from Weibo
A chronology of ancient Korean history excluding two ancient Korean kingdoms ― Goguryeo and Balhae ― before it was pulled from an exhibition held in the National Museum of China. Captured from Weibo

By Lee Yeon-woo

The National Museum of China has removed a chronological table from an exhibit after claims were made that it is a distortion of Korean history through arbitrary exclusion of some ancient Korean kingdoms.

"The National Museum of China informed us by diplomatic channels that they decided to remove the chronology from the 'Auspicious Metals from the Orient: Ancient Bronzes of China, Korea, and Japan' exhibition," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Korea said, Thursday.

The Chinese national museum also sent an email to the National Museum of Korea, confirming that the item had been removed from the exhibit. The chronological table of China and Japan showcased at the exhibition was also taken down, according to the National Museum of Korea.

The Korean chronology at the exhibition raised controversy as the Chinese museum excluded two ancient Korean kingdoms ― Goguryeo (37 B.C.-A.D. 668) and Balhae (A.D. 698-926) ― but included other kingdoms such as Baekje (18 B.C.-A.D.660.) and Shilla (57 B.C.- A.D. 935). Some questioned whether China deliberately excluded Goguryeo and Balhae because their main territories at those times covered current North Korea and some parts of China.

The National Museum of Korea strongly criticized China's act, claiming the National Museum of China arbitrarily edited the chronology they provided and warned every lent relic on exhibit will be withdrawn if the chronology is not rectified.

"China has assured that this incident had no ulterior intention. We clarified we were on the same page of the 'Korea-China verbal agreement over historical issues of 2004' by taking necessary measures before the issue becomes more complicated," the foreign ministry said.

However, some criticize it as an insincere measure since China didn't publicly admit or correct its mistakes but rather choose to remove the table altogether.

"We cannot simply feel relieved. Taking down the table without any apology or promise to correct it means they are not admitting their attempts to distort history. It's just a maneuver to avoid the issue at hand," Seo Kyoung-duk, an academic activist and professor of Sungshin Women's University wrote on Facebook, Friday.

He also pointed out the importance to realize China's attempts to distort Korean history and culture, and prepare systematic strategies for the future.

"For upcoming international exhibitions we send our relics to, we will prepare systems to examine any possible distortions and misleading or nonfactual information in advance, and to request clarifications in the event of any issue," the National Museum of Korea said.
Lee Yeon-woo yanu@koreatimes.co.kr


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