|Shown in the top image is the word "priority" engraved in Chinese on the cornerstone of the Bank of Korea's former headquarters in downtown Seoul, Friday. The bottom image shows the original calligraphy obtained by the country's Cultural Heritage Administration, which confirmed the word was handwritten by Hirobumi Ito, the first resident general of Korea prior to the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of the peninsula. Korea Times file|
By Kim Yoo-chul
Bank of Korea (BOK) Governor Lee Ju-yeol said Friday the bank is in talks with the Cultural Heritage Administration to possibly remove the engraving of the word "priority" written in Chinese on the cornerstone of the bank's former headquarters in downtown Seoul.
"The BOK will be very quick in addressing the issue about Hiromubi Ito's calligraphy and the strokes slanted down from the left to the bottom right which were found in the two characters of 'jeong' and 'cho' engraved on the foundation stone. The bank is exploring three options. After thorough discussions with the CHA, the bank will resolve the issue as quickly as possible," the central bank chief told lawmakers on the sidelines of his participation in this year's annual Assembly audit of the BOK.
Lee didn't elaborate further, but he issued a public apology over the matter. The apology came a day after the CHA confirmed the writing engraved on the bank's former headquarters was Hirobumi Ito's handwriting.
Ito was the first resident general of Korea prior to the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of the peninsula. Ito was assassinated by Korean independence activist Ahn Jung-geun in Manchuria in 1909.
The BOK's main building is registered as historical site No. 280.
"In the end, the verification process came quite later than expected as only the CHA has the authority to confirm it. Once the bank receives official verification of the engraved text on the cornerstone of the building, we will take procedural steps to address the issue," Lee said.
Earlier thoughts were that it was written by a stonemason based on the writing of former President Syngman Rhee to completely remove the old Japanese legacy after liberation and to better represent the national spirit, according to some reports. Construction began on the building in 1907, and it was completed in 1912. It housed the Bank of Chosen, the central bank during the Japanese occupation.
It became the BOK headquarters in 1950, and is now a currency museum. The BOK moved its headquarters into a new building in 1987.