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Phone Museum – Present Achievements in Past Context


 Phone Museum


This story  is of  my father,Director of Phone Museum.

One day long time ago, when I was young, I went to Mia-Ri to see my friend, Yongtae. Getting down from the bus on the ridge, I walked up through a steep mountain path, panting for breath. Upon reaching his house, I shouted out, “Yongtae!”, expecting to hear from him, “Just a moment, I’ll come out.” But, contrary to the expectation, what I had to hear was, “Yongtae is not here, he already went out this morning.” Disappointed and exhausted, I trudged back downhill and got on the bus. It took me three a half hours to go to his house in vain and come back to my house located at Pil-Dong in the foothill of Nam-San, some 12 miles from Mia-Ri. This is not an old tale from the Yi-Dynasty. It is an anecdote that I experienced in Seoul at 1960s when I was a student. Whenever I bring up this story, both I and my daughters are laughing because they’re so used to the cellular phone.  Due to the cellular phones, things have changed drastically.

Living in this world where I would not have hear, “Yongtae is not here!”, with just one call, I opened the Phone Museum, yearning for good old days. This museum is little bit different from an ordinary museum in that, while it has wire telephones dated back to 19th century, it’s going to concentrate on recent technological development.

The majority of people, upon hearing that I opened the Phone Museum which is concentrating on the mobile phone, respond like this, “The mobile phone has existed only 20 years. Now we have a museum for it?” It is a natural response since a museum normally exhibits antiques at least 50 year old. However, I think that the mobile phone is an exception. A mobile phone is now the product most intimately related to our daily lives. Korean companies occupy more than 30 percent of the mobile phone market worldwide. They have five kinds of million seller cellular phones, each of which has been sold more than ten million. Among the export items of Korea, it is placed between No. 1 and No. 3 in terms of money. Furthermore, Korean companies have been leading in mobile phone technology. There are scores of models which claim to have new functions for the first time in history.

But this story is being lost. Not only wire telephones of twenty years ago but even mobile phones of just four to five years ago are hardly being preserved, and some mobile phones with innovative technology used for the first time are being lost. They are disassembled for the purpose of extracting infinitesimal jewels in them, or rashly exporting them to underdeveloped nations. With the incentive of profit, individuals quickly sold them to retail stores, without ever considering preserving their historical value. While many domestic antiques of great age still remain, recent products manufactured more than a billion units virtually disappear. There was no museum devoted to the collection of mobile phones. Even the mobile phone companies failed to preserve their own products. Some of these companies have disappeared completely with their products. Then, how will succeeding generation of Koreans know the history of the mobile phones’ development without a preservation of recent technologies?

Hundreds of new mobile phone models come out every year. It is difficult to collect them all even though someone tries to collect them every day. Then, if neglected for years, it becomes impossible to collect them. The standard definition of an antique, “at least 50 years old,” should not be applied to such a rapidly evolving product like a mobile phone. We should collect and exhibit today’s products now instead of trying to find past products after they have become extinct. Also, since museum pieces must be exhibited to demonstrate changes at a glance, today’s pieces must be exhibited with the older pieces. As a result, the legacy of the Phone Museum, which is world-first and unique, will become the cultural legacy of Korea, and furthermore, that of the world in near future.

For these reasons, and with this vision, I opened the Phone Museum. Although there are some historic mobile phones made in Korea, which claim to have made world first function, that are yet to be collected, I hurried to open this museum with the hope that as this museum comes to be known widely, such items would be donated. I intend this museum shall be known, preserved, and ultimately transmitted to posterity with your encouragement and support, and many others around the world.

Director of the Phone Museum

Byeongcheol  Lee