US returns looted royal seals to South Korea during Moon Jae In's visit

This undated picture released on June 30, 2017, by South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration via Yonhap in Seoul, shows Joseon Dynasty's Royal Seal of Queen Munjeong.
This undated picture released on June 30, 2017, by South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration via Yonhap in Seoul, shows Joseon Dynasty's Royal Seal of Queen Munjeong.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korean President Moon Jae In is returning from an official visit to Washington with two ancient royal seals looted during the Korean War, reports said on Saturday (July 1).

The repatriation of the Chosun dynasty antiques, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, comes after years of campaigning by the South Korean government, which said they were stolen during the turbulent 1950-53 war.

Moon received the seals during a ceremony in Washington during a visit to the US on Friday and was due to arrive in South Korea with them on Sunday, Yonhap news agency said.

The Chosun dynasty, who cultivated a ruling philosophy drawn from Confucianism, governed from 1392 to 1910, when Japan colonised the country.

One of the seals was made in 1547 to honour Queen Munjeong (1501-1565), the third wife of Chosun Dynasty's 11th king, Jungjong.

The other is a jade block created in 1651 to commemorate the installation of the crown prince of King Hyojong.

They were seized by US authorities in 2013 after Seoul clarified these were stolen items.

It marked the third time that Washington has returned South Korean treasures.

In 2013, the United States sent back South Korea's first money printing block made in late 19th century and the following year, it handed back nine royal seals.

Tens of thousands of old Korean cultural items were spirited abroad during Japan's colonisation of Korea from 1910-1945 and the Korean War.