[Letter to the editor]Missed connection
We enjoyed “Seoul’s historic foreign quarter” by Features Editor Michael Gibb (Feb. 4). It was encouraging to read a work of such profound knowledge on the history of Seoul and Western activity in the city in the late Joseon period.
Therefore it was quite astonishing so see the esteemed author overlook one building of Jeong-dong “dominating the skyline,” which, although built just a few years ago, nevertheless has a strong connection to its history.
It is the Russian Embassy, built on the plot of land granted by the Seoul authorities in the spirit of friendship between the two countries which grew on the foundation laid by the diplomats of the Russian legation since 1890. So we can hardly agree that “all that is left” of the historic legation in Jeongdong is a “solitary white tower.”
By the way, the author may probably be interested to know that Antoinette Sontag, the founder of the famous Sontag Hotel, was the sister-in-law of K. Weber, the head of the Russian legation to the Joseon Court. Speaking of the history of European-style architecture in Seoul, it would also be reasonable to mention the name of the Russian architect A. Sabbatin, who had been in charge of construction of modern stone buildings in the royal palace of Gyeongungung (now Deoksugung), which used to be the Joseon royal residence, as well as of the Myeongdong Cathedral. Taking into consideration the author’s interest in history, we at the Embassy would be happy to receive him and show what is actually left of the historic Russian legation as well as to answer any questions he might have on the history of our relations with Joseon.
Oleg S. Piroshenko
Attache, Embassy of the Russian Federation