The Korean peninsula is currently divided into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea). The peninsula is about as large as the UK and lies between China, Russia and Japan in North East Asia. Sitting at a crossroads, Korea’s geographical location has played a crucial role not only in establishing its diverse cultural heritage, but also in the development of East Asian culture and art.
The British Museum’s Korean collections consist of about 4,500 objects, covering a diverse range of materials, including ceramics, metalwork, paintings, prints, lacquer, textiles and coins. The collections continue to expand, particularly in the areas of the 20th and 21st centuries, with the aim of representing the present as well as the past.
An important milestone was the acquisition of a group of works of art from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea following the establishment of diplomatic relations between the UK and North Korea in 2000. In 2001-2, the curator of the Korean collections visited the DPRK resulting in the building of one of the largest public collections of art from the DPRK in a Western museum.