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Japan Robbed Diplomatic Documents of Late Chosun Dynasty

Japan Robbed Diplomatic Documents of Late Chosun Dynasty

Posted January. 25, 2004 23:04,   


A bunch of documents were found which can prove the Japanese governor general of Korea in June 1910 handed over many documents to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the documents include the original treaties of the Japan-Korea Amity Treaty (the Kanghwa Treaty in 1876), the Korea-U.S. Treaty (1882), the Korea-Germany Treaty (1884), the Korea- French Treaty (1886), and other documents that show the situation of Korean diplomatic relations and independence movement around 1900.

Among the documents, these records included were: the Japanese assassinators of Queen Min who changed their names and hid themselves to dodge Korean assassinators after they returned to Japan, and the Korean residents in Maritime Province who worshipped the fingers cut from the patriot Ahn Joong-Gun after he was executed.

Modern Korean-Japan historian Choi Seo-myeon (76), the head of the International Korea Research, found these documents from 1994 by searching every nook and cranny in 50,000 books reserved in the diplomatic record office in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Based on the information, he recently published the book “The Lists of Korean Records in the Diplomatic Record Office of Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1875-1945.”

According to the official letters and enclosed lists of documents that Mr. Terauchi Masadake, the resident general in Korea, sent to Japanese Minister Komura Jutaro in June 1910 King Kojong hid many old diplomatic treaties while not delivering them to Japan, saying “The documents were all burned during the Deoksu Palace fire breaks in 1904,” after signing the Japan-Korea Protection Treaty in 1905 and being deprived of diplomatic sovereignty however, the Japanese governor general of Korea in May 1910 took the documents and sent them to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Based on the revealed documents, King Kojong gave them to his close relative, Jo Nam-sung, and Mr. Jo asked the French Catholic Bishop of Seoul to keep them secretly. But, while investigating Mr. Jo for some other purpose, Japanese police officers received information on the hidden treaties and confiscated them from the bishop.

“The whereabouts of the diplomatic documents which were sent to Japan in the late Chosun Dynasty is vague now,” said the Head Choi, adding, “I guess they were lost in Japan or moved to another place.”

Among the announced documents by Head Choi, reports on the Queen Min’s assassination were included. The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs received several reports from Korean institutes with contents stating, “After Queen Min was assassinated in October 1895, many Korean assassinators visited Japan believing ‘It is our duty to punish the culprits until November 1897 when the national funeral for Queen Min was supposed to be held’,” so the culprits hid themselves. Also the recently announced report clearly says the Korean refugee, the lists of the culprits’ real and assumed names, and the Japanese government’s supports for them.

According to the reports sent by Japanese Consulate general in Vladivostok, Jeong-gun, the younger brother of patriot Ahn Joong-gun took refuge in Maritime Province after Mr. Ahn was executed and visited one of the members of the Finger Cut alliance to receive his brother’s finger.

Other examined documents include the death certificate of patriot Lee Jun, the job of Japanese spies’ to converge Korean independent activists, the active roles of Korean in the Mongolian Revolution, the will of King Sunjong, and the records related to the concessions in water service and electricity in the late Chosun Dynasty.

Professor Lee Tae-jin (Korean History) of Seoul National University said, “There have been some records published by Japanese government such as ‘Japanese Diplomatic Documents’ but many records related to Korea were omitted,” and he evaluated, “The documents are precious outputs after reading enormous materials in the diplomatic record office that didn’t even have any reference indicating the relevance of Korea. I think these documents will be a great and meaningful guide book to many researchers.”

Young-A Soh sya@donga.com