South Korean President Moon Jae-in visits old Joseon legation in Washington

President Moon Jae-in and first lady Kim Jung-sook Wednesday attended the reopening ceremony of the old Korean legation in Washington, D.C., used by diplomats of Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) during the 19th and 20th centuries.

The building was reopened as a museum after six years of renovation.

Moon’s visit to the legation came on the 136th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Joseon and the U.S.

The legation, opened in February 1889, was Korea’s first diplomatic office established in a Western country. It symbolizes King Gojong’s will for independent diplomacy in the latter part of the Joseon era when Northeast Asian powers, including Japan and Russia, were trying to occupy the Korean Peninsula.

It is the only existing building among Korea’s modern diplomatic missions to keep its original form. It is also the only diplomatic office set up in the 19th century in Washington, D.C., to have preserved its interior and exterior.

“The day 136 years ago, meaning May 22, 1882, Korea (Joseon) and the U.S. established diplomatic ties and a trade treaty for the first time,” Moon said in a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump earlier in the day.

Saying it was Korea’s first modern-era treaty and the legation was the first diplomatic mission in the West, Moon added, “It has been a great journey that Korea-U.S. relations have improved to a reciprocal, comprehensive alliance in all sectors.”

After opening the office in 1889, Joseon bought the building in December 1891 for $25,000. But Japan forced it to sign a treaty depriving it of its diplomatic rights in November 1905. After officially annexing the Korean Peninsula in 1910, Japan forcibly bought the building for $5 and sold it to an American for $10.

In 2012, the Cultural Heritage Administration purchased the building for $3.5 million and began renovations.

At the ceremony, Moon and Kim talked with descendants of the Joseon diplomats, including the granddaughter of Park Jeong-yang, the first diplomatic minister of the legation.

Source – The Korea Times

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