S. Korea, U.S. to agree on cooperation in return of looted artifacts

July 22, 2014

SEOUL (Yonhap) — South Korea and the United States will sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) this week on the return of Korean artifacts illegally taken to America, the government said Tuesday.

The MOU will be signed in Washington on Tuesday between South Korea’s Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), an American federal law enforcement agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the CHA said.

The accord aims to promote investigative cooperation between the two authorities for the return of stolen Korean art and antiquities in the U.S. and specifies how to share information on the illegal trade of such items, it said.

The CHA had proposed signing the agreement with ICE with the latter’s discovery and seizure in November of nine ancient Korean seals and other Korean treasures stolen by American soldiers during the 1950-53 Korean War as an occasion, officials said.

The items were returned to South Korea in April when U.S. President Barack Obama visited the country for a summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hye.

Among them was the Hwangjejibo (Seal of the Emperor) that King Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) made upon the establishment of the Korean Empire in 1897.