By Jeongnam Kim
(Former Senior Presidential Secretary for Education·Culture·Society, World Korean News advisor)
We can talk about the developmental process of civilization in terms of many different angles, but the invention of printing technology and its development was a milestone that marks the change in the life of man and its advancement. It can be said that the printing culture led man's civilization until the IT became as a general tool.
Until 1970s the first metal print block was invented and put into use by Gutenberg in Germany. However, it was revealed in the World Bibliotheca Year Exhibition held in Paris, France in 1972, that there was a document printed with a metal printing block in Goryeo 70 years before a bible was printed with Gutenberg's in Germany.
This is the Jikji Samcheyojeol, or Jikji Simgyeong. The fact that we had wooden print blocks first and then the metal print blocks afterwards meant that there was a high demand for printed books. Goryeo was as such a very culturally ripe nation.
Jikji was taken to France shortly after a trade agreement was signed between Korea and France in 1886, when a French diplomat took a cache of old books and various cultural relics he had collected when he went back home. A French collector, who bought it in an auction in 1911, donated it to the French National Library when he passed away, and ever since it has been kept in the library.
Professor Park Byung-seon, who went to France as a student in 1955, found it, and he spent many years on his research work to prove that the Jikji was printed with a metal printing board. At long last in 1972, he succeeded to prove that the Buddhist document was printed with a metal printing board for the first time in history. In 2001 the Jikji was registered as the World's Treasury.
In 1377 two monks, named Seokchan and Daljang, started to study a project at Heungdeok Temple in Cheongju, with a view to introducing a book written by their teacher Baikwun Hwasang to the world, having it printed with a metal mechanism. A Buddhist nun named Myeodeok donated the necessary materials and expenses for the project. They put a handwritten page on the wax upside down and engraved the letters and created metallic prints. Jikji Simche was a teaching that people would be able to learn of the Buddha's heart when they have a pure mind, and Yoche means a collection of important passages.
The fact that the metallic print board was first created in Korea means that the Korean people opened a new epoch in the world civilization. In connection with the fact that Korea is recently playing a leading role in creating an IT Civilization, we cannot help but take the pride anew that we are the very nation who create a new civilization in the world.