Digging of gold at temple gets nod
By Na Jeong-ju
A North Korean defector who claims that some 40 kilograms of gold bars is buried in the backyard of a Daegu temple has obtained approval from the Cultural Heritage Administration to dig.
The administration said Friday that it has approved the excavation on condition that the 41-year-old defector, surnamed Kim, should take necessary measures not to damage cultural property near the site.
According to Kim, he was told in North Korea that his 83-year-old stepfather’s father buried the bars behind the main building of Donghwa Temple on Mt. Palgong during the 1950-53 Korean War.
The stepfather’s family relocated to North Korea during the war and Kim defected to the South in December 2008.
Since early last year, Kim has visited the temple several times to demand permission to search. However, the temple has rejected his request, saying such work could damage the main building that is Daeungjeon, National Treasure No. 1563.
He filed a petition with the administration to get legal permission.
“We gave him the go-ahead based on the results of tests from metal detectors, which showed that something metallic is really buried there,” an administration official said.
The official said the administration will consult with the temple and Kim to determine the date of the excavation.
Kim claims that his stepfather’s father obtained the gold after selling his assets. Kim said he was told to dig up the gold by his stepfather before he left North Korea.
The gold, if his claims are true, would now be worth roughly 2.3 billion won ($1.9 million) and the bars if found would belong to him as they are a family asset.