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Historic legation building finally returns to Korean hands

The historic legation building of the Joseon Dynasty has been returned to Korea 102 years after it was taken over by Japan. The former legation building located in Logan Circle Historic District in Washington, D.C. stands as a testament to the efforts of King Gojong to assert Korea's sovereignty through autonomous diplomacy. It is one of the few remaining diplomatic offices of the Korean Empire, whose original form is preserved as it was.


After the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1910, which made Korea a colony of Japan, Japan acquired the building for a mere USD 5. It was later resold to an American for USD 10. After years of negotiation, the Cultural Heritage Administration succeeded in reclaiming the rights to the building from the current owners, Timothy Jenkins and his wife.


Kim Chan (second from right), head of the Cultural Heritage Administration,
poses with Timothy Jenkins (third from right) and his wife after signing the final deal on October 18
(photo: Yonhap News).

The signing ceremony to seal the deal took place on October 18 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The ceremony was attended by Kim Chan, head of the Cultural Heritage Administration, and the previous owners, among others. The purchase price was USD 3.7 million.


"The legation building was unfairly taken over by Japan in the past," Jenkins said during the ceremony. "We're very happy to return this building with the 'heart of love' to the Korean government."

"The building will be used as bridgeheads to let the American public learn about our cultural heritage and to teach Koreans a historic lesson," Kim said.


The entrance to the legation building in Washington, D.C. (photo: Yonhap News).


In a seminar held afterward, Professor Kim Chung-dong of Mokwon University, an advisor to the foundation, gave a lecture on the historic considerations of reclaiming the legation.


"King Gojong ordered that the legation be founded in the United States despite interference from the Qing Dynasty," Kim said. "After the inauguration of the Korea-U.S. diplomatic relation in 1882, the United States established a legation in Korea, but we weren't able to do the same because of the Qing Dynasty's strong interference.

"At the order of King Gojong, the Joseon government purchased the building for USD 25,000 in November 1891. It was then a lot of money considering Joseon's financial condition."


Kim then suggested that the building be used to establish a Korea-America archive preserving and exhibiting documents and materials that show over 100 years of diplomatic history between the two countries.


Sourced from Korea.net