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Legation of Korea in Washington D.C. Reclaimed after 102 Years(Fact Sheet)

❑ History of the Building

• The Korean Empire's former legation building was constructed in 1877 in the Victorian style by Seth Ledyard Phelps, a lieutenant commander during the Civil War, reportedly for the purpose of residence after his discharge from the U.S. Navy.

• The Phelps House, as it is known, was designed by Thomas M. Plowman, and built by Joseph Williams.

• Ownership of the Phelps House was transferred from Sevellon A. Brown, Seth Ledyard Phelps' son-in-law who served as an undersecretary at the State Department, to King Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty in 1891. The building remained under his name until 1910, the year of Japan's annexation of Korea.


❑ Change of Ownership

• Construction in 1877
• Nov. 28, 1891: Purchased by the Joseon Dynasty (Purchase Price: $25,000)
• Jun. 29, 1910: Purchased by Japan (Purchase Price: $5)
• Sep. 1, 1910: Sold by Japan to an American (Sale Price: $10)
❑ Location

• The building is located in the Logan Circle Historic District of Washington D.C., about a 10-minute drive from the White House.


❑ Historical Significance

• The property was purchased for $25,000 with the privy purse of King Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty in 1891, and was used as a de-facto embassy of the Joseon and subsequently the Korean Empire for 14 years until 1905 (King Gojong proclaimed the founding of the Korean Empire in 1897). The building signifies the Dynasty’s desperate move to maintain its independence from the increasing threat of Japanese expansion.

• After the Protectorate Treaty was concluded between Korea and Japan in November 1905, by which Korea was deprived of its diplomatic sovereignty by Japan, Japanese authorities maintained the building. In June 1910, two months before Japan’s annexation of Korea, it was forcibly sold to Uchida, the then-Japanese Minister at the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C. for only $5. The building was then reportedly sold to an American named Fulton later in 1910. The current owner, Thomas L. Jenkins, acquired ownership in 1977. After 102 years of private ownership, the building was finally returned to Korea when it was purchased in 2012, which marks the 130th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and the United States.


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