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Social value beyond collectible value: Sharing wisdom through bo...
  • Writer : KU Today
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  • Date : 2019-02-20

Social value beyond collectible value: Sharing wisdom through books
The Mansong collection and a rare book collection of Baudelaire’s work


There are no limits when it comes to donors’ willingness to share their spirit of generosity with Korea University. An antique book handed down from a father, sportswear that boosted an athlete’s morale, a mouth guard that ensured safety, artificial grass, and a home that was purchased with a lifetime’s savings are all among KU’s invaluable donated items. Although individual items may vary in their value, the donors’ spirit of giving is all the same. The altruism shown by Korea University’s donors has deepened Korea University’s culture of giving while empowering beneficiaries.

Donating Cultural Properties Since 1975
The Establishment of the Mansong Collection and the Mansong Scholarship Fund

The Hanjeoksil (Room of Historical Classic Books), located in the Korea University Graduate School Library, stands with pride as the largest of its kind at a Korean university. Among the many collections, the Mansong Collection is the biggest in the Hanjeoksil. The Mansong Collection consists of 19,071 volumes that were gathered by the late Kim Wan-sup (pen name: Mansong) over the course of his life. Upon his death in 1975, the collection was donated to Korea University by Mansong’s son Kim Jae-chul, a lawyer.

What was the motivation behind their donation? After graduating from the Department of Law at Meiji University in Japan, Mansong worked in the field of law for over half a century. He spent his earnings on historical books that were on the verge of being removed to Japan. Through his connections as an instructor at his alma mater, Mansong decided to gift his collection to Korea University in 1975. In the same year when Mansong passed away, his son Kim Jae-chul continued to follow up the intention and will of his deceased father and donated 19,071 volumes of historical books to Korea University. The book collection is of extremely high literary value. With Kim’s donation of seven volumes of Dong-in-ji-moon-sa-yuk (a compilation of Silla dynasty and Goryeo dynasty inscription works) and the first two published volumes of Yong-bi-eo-cheon-ga (Songs of Flying Dragons through the Heavens) each of the collections was designated as Treasure No. 710 in 1981 and Treasure No. 1463 in 2009 respectively with the efforts of the Korea University Library. In addition, Kim Joo Hyun, daughter of Kim Jae-chul, gifted to Korea University 334 pieces of ancient drawings and over 200 pieces of contemporary arts and crafts including Kim Jeong-hui’s “Je-yu-bon-yuk-pok-byeong,” totaling KRW 900 million in value. In December 2013, Kim Jae-chul visited the Mansong Collection in the Korea University Hanjeoksil and recalled his father’s past.

“My father spent most of his life collecting important historical books that could have been passed on to the hands of the Japanese during the Japanese colonial rule. He did his best to prevent the export of valuable cultural assets. When my father did not have enough money in his pockets to collect invaluable and expensive historical books that were worth KRW 200 at that time, he contacted people around him including Gan Song. He also introduced non-historical books such as ones about ceramics to Gan Song. Every time I look around the Mansong Collection, I can feel my father’s spirit which makes my heart swell,” said Kim Jae-chul.

What led Kim to donate his father’s invaluable collection? Kim had strong faith in Korea University’s system of managing historical books in an optimal environment and state-of-the-art facilities. He also stated that he referred to Korea University’s system for his private book collection at home. In addition to the Mansong Collection, the Mansong Scholarship Fund was established in 1976 with Kim Wan-sup’s donation of KRW 50 million. Since 1977, Korea University has provided scholarships to students in the Department of Law.

The Late Professor Emeritus Kang Sung-wook donated a first edition of Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire

Korea University has received other special book donations in addition to the Mansong Collection. The Late Professor Emeritus Kang Sung-wook (Department of French Language and Literature), who passed away in 2005, gifted to the Korea University Library a first edition of Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil), a French poetry collection by Charles Baudelaire. As Charles Baudelaire’s only collection of poems, Les Fleurs du mal is of great historical value. Although the volume was first published in 1857, Baudelaire’s work was brought to trial for obscenity including depictions of homosexuality and other banned images in his work. This led the French court to order the publisher to remove six of his poems from the collection. New editions were published after his death; however, the reprinted edition of Les Fleurs du mal is still considered as the official copy in the academic circle. The late Kang had purchased the first edition of Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal in 1974. Baudelaire researchers in Japan once asked him to lend the volume for their overseas book exhibition in Japan; however, he declined to do so, demonstrating the extent to which he cherished the collection.

Kang’s former student, the late Professor Hwang Hyun-san (1945-2018) safeguarded the first edition of the volume and in accordance with Kang’s will, donated the book to the Korea University Library before his passing in March, 2018. In addition to Les Fleurs du mal, Kang donated over 18,000 volumes of French literature to the Korea University Library. The Department of French Language and Literature then created the “Professor Kang Sung-wook’s Book List Committee,” and after a seven-year archiving process, Korea University Press published a 716-page volume titled Professor Kang Sung-wook’s Collection.

The true value of Kim Wan-sup’s “Mansong Collection” and Professor Kang Sung-wook’s “Special Baudelaire Collection” lies in their wish to become guiding lights of learning to future scholars. An old saying reminds us that “the beautiful fragrance flows for one hundred years.” It is hoped that the scent of these invaluable books remains forever in the hearts of the Korea University people.


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