Yi Han-eung remembered at BKS Seollal celebration

Yi Han-eung statue
The statue of Yi Han-eung in the Korean embassy

The British Korean Society gathered on the newly refurbished top floor of the South Korean embassy yesterday for a belated celebration of Seollal, courtesy of the Deputy Head of Mission, Minister Sun Nahmkook. Apart from the generous buffet, a splendid selection of innovative cocktails and the opportunity to socialise, the highlight of the evening was a talk by the KCC’s Paul Wadey giving an all-too-brief taster of the research he has been conducting on the subject of the first Korean diplomats in London.

In the reception area of the embassy is a statue of Yi Han-eung, a 31-year-old diplomat who committed suicide in London in May 1905 in despair at the growing Japanese power over Korea. He had been given the job of trying to influence the provisions of a UK-Japan treaty which would recognise Japan’s interests on the peninsula.

Yi Han-eung
Yi Han-eung and the Earls Court building once occupied by the Korean diplomats

The building occupied by the first Korean diplomats in London was a rented townhouse in Trebovir Road, Earls Court, which happened to be situated next door to the London residence of the Vaughan Williams family. Much of Paul Wadey’s talk traced the support, friendship and protection provided by that family to the Korean diplomats and their associates over the years. If Paul can be persuaded to do a more in-depth talk, or even collate his researches into a book, don’t miss the chance to get to know these fascinating stories.

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