N. Korea sees Koguryo legacy as way to promote inter-Korean relations


North Korea sees the legacy of Korea’s ancient kingdom of Koguryo, which controlled northern Korean Peninsula and northeastern China for more than 700 years, as a means of improving inter-Korean relations and an eventual unification of the two Koreas, a senior North Korean official said Thursday.

“I’m passionate about opening this exhibition, as I am confident that it will further boost our people’s struggle to achieve a unified powerhouse nation and promote the improvement of (North) Korea and Japan relations based on a drastic clearance of their past,”said Hong Son-ok, a North Korean official in charge of external cooperation in cultural cooperation.

Hong made the statement to Yonhap News Agency at a ceremony here to open an exhibition of photos of artifacts of the Koguryo kingdom co-hosted by Yonhap News Agency and Japan’s Kyodo News Service. Hong’s statement was referring to North Korea’s chilly relations with Japan, which colonized the Korean Peninsula for about 35 years until 1945.

The exhibition is taking place at the Korean Central History Museum here amid signs of warming inter-Korean relations just a week after the leaders of South and North Korea held their second summit in seven years.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il “paid special care and courtesy” to the exhibition, Hong said.

It is the first time that the South Korean news agency has hosted an event in North Korea. The exhibition of 121 photographs of tombs and murals of the Koguryo Kingdom (37 B.C.-668 A.D.) continues until Nov. 10, and includes World Heritage sites.

“The murals of the Koguryo kingdom, which controlled the northern part of the Korean Peninsula and Manchuria (northeastern China), are an element that links the people of South and North Korea,”Yonhap President Kim Ki-seo said.

Kim cited the popularity in South Korea of television dramas and literature featuring the ancient kingdom, which he referred to as a spiritual root shared by the two Koreas. Kyodo’s president, Satoshi Ishikawa, was also on hand at the opening ceremony.

About 100 Pyongyang citizens attended the ceremony with most of the women guests wearing Korea’s colorful traditional costume, hanbok.

Citizens expressed pride in their ancient legacy.

“It’s a centennial powerhouse in the East,” a North Korean said. “We should inherit the great spirit of our forefathers and develop our nation into a unified powerhouse.”

Horse-riding warriors of Koguryo dominated politics and culture in Northeast Asia until they were defeated by joint attacks from the southern Korean kingdom of Silla and China’s Tang Dynasty.

The Koguryo people left paintings on the walls and ceilings of tombs depicting their daily lives and mythical beliefs. A mural from Anak Tomb No. 3 shows a vivid image of a woman in white stirring soup in a big pot in a kitchen beside a meat storeroom. Other murals show a hunting scene of horse-riding warriors and a nobleman enjoying an acrobatic performance.

A total of 107 Koguryo tombs have been discovered, 76 in and around the North Korean capital of Pyongyang and the rest around the North Korean border with China.

As much of the kingdom was located in what is now northeastern China, Chinese scholars have recently begun claiming that the Koguryo kingdom is part of Chinese history. Last year, Yonhap and Kyodo co-hosted an exhibition in Seoul of photos that Kyodo took at Koguryo tombs in North Korea.


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