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Stories behind S. Korea's official development assistance: Myanmar and Cambodia Updated: 2021-01-15 03:57:31 KST

South Korea's cultural heritage ODA project has been running for around ten years in Southeast Asia.
Myanmar's Phaya Thon Zu temple complex designated as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site in 2019 was severely damaged by an earthquake in 2016.
The three temples, joined together in a row and well-known for their exquisite mural paintings, desperately needed to be restored, and South Korea took on the challenge.
Some of the experts restoring such heritage sites in Southeast Asia had to return home due to the pandemic, and spent that time writing up the stories behind the restoration projects like the one in Myanmar for the recently published book 'First Ever Journey on Cultural Heritage ODA'.

"The heat exhausted me a lot, there was an abnormal climate in Myanmar. Not one day would go under 40-degrees Celsius and our clothes would all get wet before lunchtime."

Overcoming the steamy heat, researchers would analyze what kinds of pigments were used on the mural paintings and inspect the condition of the bricks.
They would team up with locals for every part of the process so that the locals could continue the restoration work by themselves.

"We would call a team with both locals and Koreans a MYKO team, and tried to build strong relationships. Also to strengthen their ability to do the work on their own, we came up with a program where locals would be able to learn suitable techniques."

South Korea is also participating alongside other countries to restore the Preah Pithu Temples at Angkor, Cambodia.
The expert says at first locals might have had doubts toward Korea, but now they seem impressed with the Koreans' work.

"Since Cambodia is where many nations have been working at the site, each country's process and results can be seen. Compared to other nations' work, I think locals have realized that in some areas, Korea has been much more competitive."

There were many difficulties to overcome, from climate to different lifestyles and food.
But the end result, protecting valuable cultural assets, is something that will be appreciated long after the experts return home.
Kim Bo-kyoung, Arirang news.
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