Obama will personally return royal seals to Korea

April 15, 2014
President Obama is expected to arrive in Seoul on April 25, following a three-day stay in Tokyo.

President Obama is expected to arrive in Seoul on April 25, following a three-day stay in Tokyo.

By Kim Tae-gyu

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to return nine stolen Joseon Kingdom (1392-1910) seals to Korea during his Asian trip next week, a source familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

They are three state seals, which kings used on diplomatic and other significant documents, and six ceremonial ones, which royal families used in rituals.

The national treasures are believed to have been smuggled out of the country to the United States during the Korean War (1950-53).

U.S. authorities confiscated them late last year.

The nine seals confiscated last year include three national seals of the Korean Empire, one royal seal of the Korean Empire and five signets of the Joseon Royal Court of the Joseon Dynasty. The Korean Empire (1897-1910) succeeded the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). (ICE photo)

The nine seals confiscated last year include three national seals of the Korean Empire, one royal seal of the Korean Empire and five signets of the Joseon Royal Court of the Joseon Dynasty. The Korean Empire (1897-1910) succeeded the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910). (ICE photo)

“The U.S. originally thought of returning the seals in the second half of this year. But Obama appears to want to move up the schedule in time with his visit to Korea,” said the source who asked not to be named.

“On the occasion of his fourth visit to Korea, the U.S. president appears to be paying his respects to the country and its people.”

Obama is slated to fly to Tokyo on April 24 before heading to Seoul the next day as a part of his Asian tour, which also includes stops in the Philippines and Malaysia.

When contacted, a Cheong Wa Dae official refused to confirm the information about the seals, but conceded there is a high possibility they will be returned.

“The chances are that Obama will bring the seals,” the official said.

Buddhist monk Hye Moon, the head of a cultural organization here designed to restore looted Korean cultural properties overseas, also said he has positive expectations.

“I am not in a position to confirm that negotiations have taken place between the governments. But I heard that Obama is likely to bring the seals next week,” he said.

Moon held a gathering Tuesday in central Seoul to urge Obama to return the seals. Politicians including Rep. An Min-suk from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy took part.

Soon after the U.S. announced it had confiscated the nine royal seals in November, the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) said that they were stolen during the war.

Meanwhile, Cheong Wa Dae confirmed Obama’s official schedule on his April 25 to 26 visit to Korea. It did not announce when a summit will take place but experts predict that this will be on April 25.

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