A one-day outing for the statue
The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAngIlbo.
From August 14, the Old Korean Legation in Washington D.C. held a special exhibition of historical materials showing efforts to maintain Korea’s independence 130 years ago. Exhibited were postcards, New Year’s greeting cards and documents from a church. They were found during the fireplace restoration in a second-floor office in April 2016. One of them was a postcard from Danville Military Institute (1890-1939). Lee Chae-yeon, the fourth minister to the United States from 1890 to 1893, visited the school to invite American military instructors to enhance Korea’s military and bought the postcard.
Danville is at the southwestern end of Virginia and takes about 4 and half hours by car to reach today. Lee visited this school because King Gojong secretly ordered him to arrange for the dispatch of 200,000 American troops to drive out Chinese forces for Joseon. First minister Park Jeong-yang had a one-on-one meeting with U.S. President Grover Cleveland but was called back after 11 months due to Qing pressure. Successive ministers Lee Ha-young, Yi Wan-yong and Lee Chae-yeon remained committed to the goal.
Second acting minister Lee Ha-young was almost successful. With the help of the Department of State, he borrowed $2 million with Incheon, Busan and Wonsan Ports as security, and the deployment bill was voted in the Congress and the Senate. However, because of the Monroe Doctrine, the deployment to Korea did not pass. Lee returned the remaining money after spending $160,000 on banquets and lobbying, and the diplomacy ended fruitlessly (“Fifty Years of Diplomacy with the United States” by Moon Il-pyung). Moreover, Lee Ha-young, a Jungchuwon advisor, and Yi Wan-yong, one of the five Eulsa traitors, failed to get help from the United States to maintain Korea’s independence and later became Japanese collaborators, leading the transfer of Korea’s sovereignty to Japan.
On August 15, the statue of the Girl of Peace came to the Old Korea Legation after passing the Japanese Embassy in the United States. It came to Washington, D.C. in November 2016 but a permanent location could not be found. It was kept in storage for 33 months and finally saw the light of day. The statues are installed in four locations: Los Angeles, South Field, Michigan, Brookhaven, Georgia, and Manhattan, New York, but the Japanese government is interfering with the installation in the U.S. capital. The installation committee will seek public locations in Washington, D.C. by the end of the year, and as an alternative, Maryland and other nearby locations will be considered. How about the Old Korea Legation? The place where the loss of national sovereignty was not prevented could be a place to console the victims. It is also meaningful as the legation was restored through efforts of Korean citizens and Korean Americans.