-Special exhibition held at the National Palace Museum of Korea (Feb 20 – Mar 8)-
The Cultural Heritage Administration (Administrator Chung Jaesuk) has safely brought home Daegunjubo, a national seal crafted in 1882 (19th year during King Gojong’s reign) to present Joseon as a sovereign state, and The Royal Seal of Hyojong made in 1740 (16th year during King Yeongjo’s reign) to commemorate the achievements of King Hyojong. The two seals were repatriated to Korea after being donated by Lee Dae Soo, a Korean resident in America, in December last year.
* Guksae: National seal stamped on diplomatic and administrative documents as a symbol of national authority
* Eobo: Royal seal symbolizing royal authority, fashioned to commemorate the presentation of posthumous or ante-mortem titles to them for their virtues and achievements and placed in the custody of the state for rigorous management
Daegunjubo is a silver seal measuring 7.9 cm in height and 12.7 cm in length with a turtle-shaped handle on its body. It is mentioned in 「Gojong sillok, Annals of King Gojong」, 「Seungjeongwon ilgi, Diaries of the Royal Secretariat」, 「Ilseongnok, Daily Records of the Royal Court and Important Officials」 as having been crafted by King Gojong in 1882 for diplomatic use.
Joseon had used a seal written Joseongukwangjiin (The Seal of the King of Joseon) from Ming and Qing Dynasties, which was replaced by the newly created Daegunjubo under the name of Daegunju (Emperor) of Daejoseonguk (Joseon Dynasty) from King Gojong’s orders. Experts explain that such transition represents King Gojong’s intention in line with the undergoing change at the time, including the signing of the Korea-United States Treaty of 1882, to move away from the diplomatic relationship centered on China and shift towards an independent sovereign state.
After detailed research, it has been identified that Daegunjubo was officially used until 1897 since its creation in 1882 and its actual use has been found in a document of 1883 appointing an ambassador in charge of treaty affairs with foreign countries. Based on the newly established system for official documents since the Gabo Reforms of 1894, the seal had also been used in appointment papers and act, royal order, and edict issued by the Daegunju (Emperor).
ﾠ* Edict: A decree for announcing the outlines of a policy or for the appointment of major government officials
The Royal Seal of King Hyojong is a gold seal measuring 8.4 cm in height and 12.6 cm in length with a turtle-shaped handle, created to present the title Myeonguijeongdeok (Bright Righteousness and Correct Virtue) to King Hyojong in 1740 (16th year of King Yeongjo). A posthumous title was presented to King Hyojong in 1659 (the accession year of King Hyeonjong) immediately after his death and titles in 1740 (16th year of King Yeongjo) and 1900 (4th year of Korean Empire Gwangmu). Each of these times an eobo (royal seal) was crafted. Of the three royal seals of King Hyojong, only the one created in 1900 has been stored safely (by the National Palace Museum of Korea). Following the return of the royal seal of 1740, two of King Hyojong's royal seals are kept safely at the National Palace Museum of Korea with the seal created in 1659 still remaining missing.
Lee Dae Soo, who has donated the seals, studied abroad in the United States in the 1960s and continued to reside in America. His interest in Korean cultural heritage led him to purchase items on auctions, during which he purchased the two seals in the late 1990s. Mr. Lee decided to donate the seals back to their home country after he recently came across the fact that guksae and eobo are valuable assets of the Korean government.
In the process of the return, Kim Hyoungkeun, the publisher of Modern Buddhism of America, and Shin Younggeun, the former Secretary General of the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Research Institution in Gumi, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province, have played vital roles in providing information regarding guksae and eobo and working out details, such as the method and timing of the donation.
A total of 412 guksae and eobo were crafted in the Joseon Dynasty, including the Korean Empire, and 73 of them are still missing, excluding the two seals that have recently returned to Korea. Guksae and eobo are assets of the Korean government that cannot be legally possessed. The list of missing seals is being shared with 123 States Parties to the 1970 Convention as well as the ICPO-INTERPOL and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations. For such reason, the return of national and royal seals has involved forced measures such as seizure and investigations, but the repatriation of these two seals has significance as one with a friendly manner in the form of a donation resulting from the assistance of third parties and the voluntary contribution of the possessor.
The Cultural Heritage Administration plans to create and distribute brochures and videos on stolen guksae and eobo to increase interest in the missing heritage in order to raise awareness and encourage friendly return of the seals through donations.ﾠ
Daegunjubo and The Royal Seal of King Hyojong will make their first appearance to the press at the National Palace Museum of Korea on February 19th 14:00 and be opened to visitors at the second floor of the museum in the Kings of the Joseon Dynasty area from February 20th to March 8th.
Divisions: International Cooperation Division of the Cultural Heritage Administration, Collection Management Division of the National Palace Museum of Korea
Persons in charge: Kim Byungyun (Deputy Director, 042-481-4734), Lee Jongsook (Senior Researcher, 02-3701-7661)