One of Korea's foremost historical artifacts, the gilt-bronze Maitreya in meditation, will be flown to New York on Monday for its ninth overseas exhibition. It will be part of more than 100 artifacts from the Shilla Kingdom on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from late October until February next year.
Insurance assessment for the graceful statue of the Buddha-in-waiting is US$50 million, and it will be flown across the Pacific with special attention and care. It took a week just to package it for transport in three layers using state-of-the-art methods, while it was guarded around the clock, according to a spokesman from the National Museum of Korea.
The Maitreya will be transported to Incheon airport on a special truck escorted by Korean and U.S. museum officials and armed police. The exact departure time is a secret due to security concerns, and it flies non-stop to New York aboard a Korean Air plane. It will be loaded just before take-off and unloaded immediately on landing to minimize the time it is subject to transport conditions.
It will be taken from JFK International Airport to the Met surrounded by armed security reminiscent of a visiting VIP.
The statue, which sits on a plinth with one foot resting on the other knee and one hand raised, is believed to have been made in the 7th century.
The Cultural Heritage Administration opposed the trip due to the statue's value, but Cheong Wa Dae and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism persuaded the CHA that its safety would be the top priority.