Bronze Helmet Donated by Son Kee chung
Metal - Copper Alloy
Military affairs - Equipment - Helmet and armour - helmet
- Accession Number
Discovered at the Temple of Zeus in Olympia in 1875, this ancient Corinthian helmet was an offering to the Olympian gods and goddesses, probably to give thanks or to pray for a victory at the Olympiad. The helmet is marked by its unique form, which is designed to cover the entire face except for the eyes and mouth. This helmet has a very special significance for Korea, because it was awarded to Son Gi-Jeong (1912-2002) when he won the gold medal in the marathon event at the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, 1936. At that time, Korea was under Japanese colonial rule, so Son and his teammate Nam Seung-ryong, winner of the bronze medal in the same event, were forced to represent Japan. But Son defiantly introduced himself as a Korean at press interviews and insisted on using his Korean signature, even though the use of the Korean language had been aggressively suppressed by the Japanese. When the Japanese national anthem was played while Son and Nam were on the medal stand, they both bowed their heads in protest. Son’s victory at the Olympics was thereby a source of huge national pride and hope for all the Korean people living under the harsh colonial rule. Somehow, the helmet was never delivered to Son, so it was stored at Berlin’s Museum Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf until 1986, when it was finally passed down to its rightful owner as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Olympics. Son in turn donated it to the National Museum of Korea, saying, “This helmet is not mine; it belongs to all of my country’s people.” It is currently the only Western-origin artifact that has been designated as a Treasure (#904) by the Korean government.