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Loan period extended for US-captured Joseon-era flag

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In the left photo, Joseon General Eo Jae-yeon's
In the left photo, Joseon General Eo Jae-yeon's "sujagi" flag is captured by the U.S. Navy during the U.S.' 1871 military engagement in Joseon, called "Sinmiyangyo." In the right photo, the flag is on display at the National Palace Museum of Korea in 2007 after it was repatriated on loan from the U.S. / Courtesy of Cultural Heritage Administration

By Kwak Yeon-soo

The loan period for a rare Joseon-era flag, which had been captured by U.S. naval forces during the 1871 military action against the Joseon Kingdom and was returned to Korea on a lease, has been extended for another year.

The Ganghwa War Museum confirmed, Wednesday, that it has recently signed an agreement with the U.S. Naval Academy Museum in Annapolis, Maryland, for a one-year extension on borrowing the military flag named "sujagi" for display. The loan period had been scheduled to expire at the end of September.

"The U.S. Naval Academy Museum agreed recently to extend the loan period until Oct. 1, 2023, after months of negotiations," a museum official told The Korea Times, Wednesday.

U.S. naval forces captured the flag 151 years ago in 1871 in what it called the "Expedition to Korea," which is referred to in Korean as "Sinmiyangyo" (Western disturbance in the Sinmi year). It belonged to a commander of the Korean forces, General Eo Jae-yeon (1823-71), who led a secret army to defend Korea from the U.S. invasion. He died in battle during the military incident at Gwangseongbo Fortress on Ganghwa Island.

The Americans, after killing Eo, captured the military flag as a trophy. The sujagi had remained in the custody of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum until it was returned to Korea in 2007 on a 10-year loan.

Following its special display at the National Palace Museum in Seoul, the item was moved out in 2009 to the Ganghwa History Museum on Ganghwa Island, where Sinmiyangyo took place.

Even throughout the 10-year loan, the Korean and the U.S. side continued negotiations about the loan period every two years. But in 2015, they agreed on a five-year loan and another two-year one in 2020. This time, an additional one-year deal has been made.

Korea has demanded the U.S. return the flag permanently on the grounds that it had been taken illegally. However, the U.S. museum claimed it is unable to return the cultural artifact citing a relevant U.S. law.

"To date, (during the negotiations since 2007) we've had no requests from our U.S. counterpart to return the sujagi. Thus, we will continue to negotiate in good faith," the official said.

Asked if there are plans to pursue a long-term loan again in the future, the official said the terms of the deal may change during the negotiation process. "It depends on the circumstances that will occur in the future," she said.


Kwak Yeon-soo yeons.kwak@koreatimes.co.kr


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