Old Korean Legation Cradle of the Korea-U.S. Friendship
Located on Logan Circle, northeast of the White House in Washington D.C., the Old Korean Legation building was erected in 1877 as the house of American Civil War naval hero, politician, and diplomat Seth Ledyard Phelps (1824–1885). After becoming the Korean Legation in 1889, the building provided a main stage for the active diplomatic endeavors of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1897) and Korean Empire (1897–1910) for sixteen years. This ended when Japan deprived the Korean Empire of its diplomatic sovereignty through the Japan-Korea Treaty of 1905, also known as the Eulsa Treaty, in November of that year. After the Korea-Japan Annexation Treaty of 1910, the Old Korean Legation building was eventually purchased for a mere $5 by the Japanese government and immediately resold.
Korean ownership of the building that had been so humiliatingly extorted failed to be restored for decades, even after liberation from Japanese colonial rule in August 1945. It was only late in the 1990s that discussions for the restoration of this building began among Koreans living in the United States. This was followed by a diverse range of efforts within Korea and overseas. The Old Korean Legation building was finally returned to Korean hands in October 2012 when it was successfully repurchased by the Cultural Heritage Administration and the National Trust for Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Korea.
The Old Korean Legation building is a meaningful space that has witnessed major events in both Korean and American history. It was a cradle for the Korea-U.S. friendship born out of the dedicated diplomatic efforts of King Gojong (r. 1863–1907), and a symbol of the drive for independence among Korean residents in the United States who gathered there to reaffirm their determination to recover the sovereignty of their motherland. It also provided a window for absorbing modern cultural elements from the West. Today, the Old Korean Legation building is the sole example preserving its original appearance among the extant nineteenth-century diplomatic mission buildings in Washington D.C. and is highly valued for its historical significance.
The Old Korean Legation building sits in the Logan Circle neighborhood that was designated a Historic District in June 1972 and came under management by the National Park Service. The Cultural Heritage Administration and the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation began the restoration of the building in December 2015 and opened it to the public in May 2018.
일제 국권침탈의 현장
In September 1905, Japan's control of Asia was sanctioned by other powers in the Portsmouth Treaty. The U.S. sided with Japan and they signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty. The U.S. Government closed the U.S. Legation in Jeongdong, Seoul, and terminated the diplomatic relationship with Korea. It was on November 28, 1905 the U.S. was a ready and willing partnet in these events.
The Korean Legation in Washington, D.C. was left abandoned. On June 29, 1910, right before the Japanese annexation of Korea, Emperor Gojong, a Japanese who served as a vice minister to the ministry in charge of the royal affairs in Korea, and Cho Min-hi, the last Korean ministr plenipotentiary to the U.S. signed off the document to transfer the ownership of the Korean Legation building. The purchaser was Uchida Koichi (1865~1936), Japanese ambassador to the U.S. and the purchase price was $5.00. It was a rip off. Then the building was sold to a private citizen in the U.S.
다시 찾은 공사관
Since the centennial anniversary of Korea-United States diplomatic relations in 1982, the Korean
government and Korean American community had made diverse attempts to purchase the building on 15
Logan Circle. It is the only extant legation building left as it was from the time of the Korean Empire.
In the midst of such interest across Korean society and the Korean American community, the Cultural
Heritage Administration repurchased the building through the National Trust for Cultural Heritage in
The Cultural Heritage Administration and the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation
carried out a close inspection of the building in 2013 and restored its interior and exterior
based on historic documents such as『Juminaegeoan』at the Kyujanggak Institute for Korean
Studies, Korea and the photography collection housed in the Huntington Library in California.
Korean and American historians, architects, designers, master carpenters and masons made every
effort to restore the Korean Legation to the way it was one hundred years ago. Thanks to the
patronage of companies and people in Korea and in the United States, the Korean Legation in
Washington D.C. will be cherished heritage for the whole people to remember and learn from.
ㅇ Construction Year : 1877 (Commissioned by Seth L. Phelps; designed by Thomas M. Plowman)
ㅇ Location : 1500 13th St NW, Washington, D.C. 20005
ㅇ Materials : Wood and brick
ㅇ Style : Victorian
ㅇ Size : Three aboveground floors, one basement floor
ㅇ Lot Area : 4,102ft2
ㅇ Building Footprint : 1,625ft2
ㅇ Total Floor Area : 6,229ft2 (First floor 1,625ft2, Second floor 1,552ft2, Third floor 1,427ft2, Basement 1,625ft2)