May 20, 2024

How South Korea’s National Treasures were nearly lost to North Korea

Museum director’s quick thinking meant thousands of artifacts were saved from DPRK soldiers during the Korean War

On the second floor of Seoul's National Museum of Korea sit two artifacts that command the attention of anyone who enters the room. The Pensive Bodhisattva statues, whose roots can be traced back to Korea’s 6th century, are the centerpieces of an extensive collection depicting Korea's history.

While visitors admire the intricacies and contemplative poses of the statues, which are both listed as National Treasures, they are likely unaware that these artifacts are among the thousands that were on the brink of being seized by North Korean forces during the tumultuous early days of the Korean War.

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