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Korea Extends Support for Pakistan’s Efforts to Preserve Buddhist Heritage

Korea has pledged to help Pakistan preserve its ancient Buddhist heritage. From tribune.com.pk
Korea has pledged to help Pakistan preserve its ancient Buddhist heritage. From tribune.com.pk

The Republic of Korea’s embassy in Pakistan has donated US$50,000-worth of state-of-the-art equipment for the conservation and preservation of Buddhist artifacts, and announced a pilot pilgrim tour of ancient Buddhist sites in the country, scheduled to take place in March or April this year.

“The equipment will surely be instrumental in promoting [Pakistan’s] capacity to conserve its cultural heritage to the international level,” South Korean ambassador Kwak Sung-kyu said at a handover ceremony at the Islamabad Museum on 15 February. “The project has been administrated jointly by the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea, the Korea Cultural Heritage Foundation, and the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Pakistan, with the common aim.” (Dawn)

The senior diplomat emphasized that friendly cultural ties between the two countries were founded in the shared heritage and history of Buddhism, which would be of particular importance for further cementing bilateral relations going forward. Kwak noted that numerous joint projects had already been successfully organized in the last two years, including a seminar title Hyecho in Gandhara: Footsteps of a Korean Monk in Pakistan in the Eighth Century, held in Islamabad in October last year, and an exhibition of Gandharan art titled Alexander the Great Meets the Buddha, which was held in Seoul from June to September 2017.

“The Republic of Korea and its embassy in Pakistan are committed to increase relations with Pakistan for the preservation of cultural heritage and to promote tourism in Pakistan,” said Kwak. “As part of [these] cooperative efforts, the Korean government has provided conservation equipment for treating and preserving Pakistan’s movable heritage—especially specimens of Buddhist art uncovered from the archaeological remains of Buddhist sanctuaries in the ancient Gandhara region.” (Dawn)

South Korean ambassador to Pakistan Kwak Sung-kyu. From diplomaticfocus.org
South Korean ambassador to Pakistan Kwak Sung-kyu. From diplomaticfocus.org

The conservation equipment donated to the South Asian nation’s Department of Archaeology and Museums includes environmental control systems for museums, and various pieces of equipment for cleaning and conserving antiquities, such as a stereo-microscope and ultrasonic cleaners.

“The current government [of Pakistan] is working toward the safety of religious sites as well as the promotion of tourism,” Kwak observed, pointing out that as Pakistan is home to a large number of ancient Buddhist sites, religious tourism should be promoted to help stabilize the national economy. (The Express Tribune)

“We will provide international-standard machinery and equipment to Pakistan to help it excavate historic sites and artifacts,” he added. (The Express Tribune)

Separately, the South Korean ambassador announced this week that he was making arrangements for a pilot tour of Buddhist pilgrims from Korea to visit sacred places in Gandhara and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by March or April this year, aiming to strengthen religious tourism in Pakistan.

Ranigat, a remnant of the Buddhist Gandhara civilization. From dawn.com
Ranigat, a remnant of the Buddhist Gandhara civilization. From dawn.com

In October last year, during a visit to Pakistan’s Swat Valley, a major centre of early Buddhist thought as part of the Gandhara civilization, South Korean scholar and economist Dr. So Gil-su commended that, “Koreans have great regard for Pakistan as the Indus flows through it and Mahayana Buddhism spread to Korea from here in the fourth century when the Buddhist monk Malananda traveled from Gandhara to South Korea. Also, in the eighth century, [the Korean] monk Hyecho traveled to Gandhara for pilgrimage and wrote a travelogue.” (Dawn)

Dr. So emphasized that the Indus civilization and Mahayana Buddhist sites in Pakistan, including the Swat Valley, were held in high regard around the world and had the potential to attract millions of tourists and Buddhist pilgrims, “especially from Korea, for which the government of Pakistan must chalk out an effective tourism plan.” (Dawn)

See more

South Korea gives equipment for conservation of artifacts (Dawn)
South Korea plans pilgrims’ visit to Buddhist sacred sites (Dawn)
Korean scholar highlights Pakistan’s tourism potential (Dawn)
Korea offers equipment for conserving Buddhist heritage (The Express Tribune)
South Korea hands over antiquities conservation equipments to Pakistan (Pakistan Observer)
South Korea hand over antiquities conservation equipments worth US$ 50,000 to Pakistan (Associated Press of Pakistan)
Korea to support Pakistan in preserving its heritage (Daily Times)

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