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Two photos of Korean diplomats wearing hats released

Posted June. 04, 2022 08:59,   

Updated June. 04, 2022 08:59


Photographs of activities in the United States including Pak Chung-yang, who served as the first minister plenipotentiary to the United States (current ambassador to the United States) from 1887 to 1889 at the end of Joseon Dynasty, and Lee Wan-yong, a Japanese sympathizer, were released. The Old Korean Legation Museum unveiled two photos of Korean diplomats at a meeting on the 2nd (local time). These photographs were initially donated by the Mount Vernon Library, Washington in 2020, and were revealed to the world last year when the library asked the Museum to ascertain the pictures through historical research.

The first photograph shows Pak Chung-yang visiting the residence of George Washington, the first president of the United States, in Mount Vernon, Virginia, on April 26, 1888, with staff members of the first Korea’s legation. Although Pak Chung-yang was appointed as the first ambassador in August 1887, his departure to the U.S. was delayed under pressure from Yuan Shikai, a Qing ruler. So he had to deliver his credentials to then-U.S. President Grover Cleveland on January 17 of the following year and this picture was taken three months after that. Pak had to return to Korea in 1889 due to continued pressure from the Qing Dynasty and he later served as acting prime minister during the Port Opening Period.

Pak Chung-Yang wrote about his visit to Mount Vernon on this day in his collection of literary works ‘Mihaeng (Journal during the stay in the U.S.),’ saying, “I saw the old house of President Washington. It was his usual residence, and from the things he used to use in the room to the flower garden and the play field were either well preserved and if not, were replaced with new supplies. And all in all, it was as though Washing still lived in those quarters.” At that time, Lee Wan-yong, a Grade 3 principal office during Joseon Dynasty (current secretary) and one of the Five Eulsa Traitors, and Lee Chae-yeon, a translator and the fourth minister plenipotentiary, did not accompany Pak because they were off to Korea temporarily.

The second photo has Lee Wan-yong after he returned from Joseon and his wife, Lee Chae-yeon and his wife, and Lee Ha-young, also a pro-Japanese collaborator, visiting Mount Vernon on May 6, 1889. Horace Allen and his daughter, who served as a missionary and diplomatic advisor in Joseon at the time, are also visible in the photo.

“It is meaningful in that it was the first time that Pak Chung-yang and his entourage were identified through photos as they were trying to identify the realities of local systems and cultural artifacts in the U.S. at the directives of King Gojong,” said Professor Han Cheol-ho of Dongguk University, who participated in this historical investigation.”

Jae-Dong Yu jarrett@donga.com