By Jeongnam Kim
(Former Senior Presidential Secretary for Education·Culture·Society, World Korean News advisor)
The ownership title of the building, which was first used as the legation of the old Chosun Empire in Washington, D. C. of the United States of America was formally transferred to our country as of October 18, 2012. The return took place 102 years after the Japanese Empire took over the building after she annexed our Chosun dynasty. This is the only original building among our legations which the Daihan Empire opened with the United States, Russia, France, China and Japan.
The old Chosun dynasty had paid $25,000 dollars at the time ($1.27 million dollars at the present value) to purchase this building from the privy purse of the court of Emperor Kojong, because the sovereign believed that amity relationship with the United States was inevitable to keep the nation from the claws of Ching China, Japan and Russia.
Built in 1877, this building, of a Victorian architecture with a basement and three stories, is located in the Logan historical district located approximately 10 minutes northeast of the White House. Of this legation, Yi Sang-jae wrote: "This property, newly purchased in 1891, is a Western-style brick building facing to the southern direction and has a reception room, an office, an bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, a toilet, and even a warehouse. On the top of the frontal facade is a flagstaff with our national flag set high," This legation was the first building our nation had first owned in the United States.
The management right of this building was turned over to the authorities concerned of the Japanese Empire when the Protectorate Treaty was concluded between Korea and Japan in 1905. Through the procedure of an agreement that "the Japanese Minister shall pay $5.00 to the Emperor of Korea and the Emperor of Korea shall transfer the property to the Japanese Minister," this building was forcefully lost in May, 1910, two months prior to the Korea-Japan Annexation Agreement.
And three days after the Annexation Agreement was signed on August 29, this building was sold to an American at the price of $10.00. As such, this building is smeared with a resolute determination of the Korean people for the independence of their nation.
The ownership of this building kept changing. In the 1060s this building was used as an office of the Washington Labor Organization. in 1972, the area of the Logan Circle was designated as the historical monument by the Washington City Council and the Committee of the Fine Arts. The last owner of the building was Timothy L. Jenkins, a black graduate of the University Law School.
In 1980, Won Mo Kim, an honorary professor of Danguk University, found the documents related to this building, making the existence of this building to the world. There has been an attempt to buy back this building on and off since the 2000s, but to no avail. The bureaucratic loose concept of history and the hand-down complacency, plus an ill-prepared approach all contributed to the convoluted failure of the negotiation. Then, in August 2011, the discussions for the purchase of this building were focused on concrete terms, and at long last the return of this building was made successful with the Culture Relics National Trust as the buyer, with the cooperation's of civic and government agencies concerned. However, the problem doesn't stop here.
It should be emphasized on this occasion with this historic return of this building back to us how important is our sovereignty and the resolution that we shall never ever repeats the unhappy history of the past. The scene of our recent history as shown by this legation should serve as a material for our nation's history education and moral movement.