Cultural Property Forum: The Export Policies of China, Korea and Japan

April 9, 2003
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Corporate Program past event

Read the complete transcript (PDF format).

This session, organized by Japan Society, The Korea Society and The Asia Society, was attended by an invited group of cultural property specialists, museum directors, art collectors, dealers, international art lawyers, and press. The purpose was to introduce the principles and practices of cultural property export laws in China, Japan, and Korea – laws that have served to protect the cultural patrimony of East Asia while permitting the reasonable export of works of art when licensed appropriately. In the case of Japan, it also includes the government practice of conducting scholarly research on collections of Japanese art abroad that is guided by the notion that cultural patrimony resides in the object regardless of whether or not the object resides within the nation’s borders. The policies of these East Asian countries offer a contrast to increasingly restrictive art export laws elsewhere, and our hope was to stimulate a frank and productive discussion among experts in the field.
For this event, leading government experts in cultural property law from China, Japan and Korea to responded to prepared questions that examined and illustrated the cultural property law practices – both strengths and challenges – in their respective countries. Our focus was on objects, not archaeological sites or monuments. Our speakers were Dr. Washizuka Hiromitsu, Director of the Nara National Museum, Japan; Mr. Park Youngbok, Director of the Gyeongju National Museum, Republic of Korea; and Ms. Wang Li Mei, General Secretary, State Administration of Cultural Heritage, Beijing. Our moderator was Professor Jerome Cohen, a distinguished international lawyer and Professor, New York University Law School and Senior Fellow for Asia, Council on Foreign Relations. Professor Cohen’s wide expertise and experience in East Asian law and languages ensured a vital and substantive discussion among our distinguished speakers and invited participants.  

The event coincided with a major international show on view at Japan Society Gallery, Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan, which was co-organized by Japan Society and The Korea Society with the governments of Korea and Japan.

The transcript of the Cultural Property Forum is posted on the Japan Society website and on Asia Society’s webpage dedicated to Cultural Heritage Preservation in Asia. This was created on the  AsiaSource.Org site after the Asia Society’s Beyond Bamiyan program in April 2002, and features interviews, publications and reports, links to international organizations, and resources. AsiaSource.Org receives about 300,000 page views/month and about 60,000 unique users/month.

This cultural property session was made possible with the assistance of the Hazen Polsky Foundation.

Park Youngbok is Director of the Gyeongju National Museum. He graduated from Koryo University in 1968, and was Director of Gongju and Chungju National Museums from 1982 to 1989. In the 1990s, he held positions with the National Folk Museum, the National Museum of Korea, and the Cultural Properties Administration. Of the many articles Mr. Park has written, the most important is his study of the tombs of old Silla.
Wang Limei recently assumed the position of Director for the Gehua Center for Chinese Antiquities. She also serves as the Secretary General for the Chinese Association for Cultural Property Exchanges. Prior to heading up the Gehua Center, Ms. Wang was Director, Office of International Relations, State Administration for Cultural Heritage, Beijing. In the thirty years she worked in the International Relations office, Ms. Wang oversaw all major exchanges of cultural antiquities between the People’s Republic of China and museums around the world. She was also instrumental in arranging for the return of several pieces to China from various countries.
Washizuka Hiromitsu is currently Director of the Nara National Museum. From 1993 to 1994, he was Director of the Fine Arts Division at the Agency for Cultural Affairs. He also formerly served as Deputy Director of Tokyo National Museum. His major publications include Enlightenment Embodied:  The Art of the Japanese Buddhist Sculptor (7th – 14th Centuries) (Japan Society Gallery, 1997), Muro-ji Temple (Hoikusha, 1991) and Stone Buddha (Shibundo, 1978). Dr. Washizuka is an internationally recognized expert in the field of Japanese Buddhist sculpture.


Jerome Cohen is a Professor of Law at New York University and the senior American expert on East Asian law. As Director of East Asian Legal Studies at Harvard Law School from 1964-1979, he helped pioneer the introduction of East Asian legal systems and perspectives into American legal curricula. Professor Cohen teaches courses on Chinese law and society, international business transactions with China and East Asia, and public international law, analyzing how countries with a Confucian tradition relate to the international laws and traditions of the “Christian West.” Professor Cohen was a partner with the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York. He is Adjunct Senior Fellow for Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations. He received both his BA and JD from Yale University.

  • Wednesday, April 9, 2003
  • 12:00 pm