Bowl-shaped sundials from the Joseon Dynasty were the first public clocks in South Korea.
One antique piece has recently been returned home from the U.S.
Park Se-young has more.
This sundial, one of the Angbuilgu public clocks of South Korea, was up for auction in the U.S. earlier this year.
Through the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, the government managed to purchase it in June and bring it home in August.
Based on the latitude of Seoul inscribed on the sundial, which was the figure used after 1713 the sundial is presumed to have been made in the 18th or early 19th century.
"The auction was supposed to be held in March but kept getting delayed because of COVID-19. We participated in the online auction in June."
There are now seven of these large metal sundials in Korea, two of which are designated as national treasures.
Other sundials could only tell time, but Korean scientists developed the Angbuilgu sundial so it could include astronomical information and serve as a multipurpose calendar.
"It not only tells seasons and the time, it also provides sunrise and sunset times and directions."
Since the reign of King Sejong, sundials had been installed at busy downtown points where anyone could easily check the time.
Instead of the Chinese characters for time, the 12 animal system was used so the illiterate could read the time.
Because the sundial only gives the correct time when it is calibrated for the latitude of Seoul, it can finally tell the right time.
The piece will be on display at the National Palace Museum of Korea until December 20th.
Park Se-young, Arirang News.