The KCCUK is pleased to present '1883: A Journey Through the Archives' to commemorate the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and the United Kingdom. The exhibition features a wonderful array of materials that presents the encounters between Korea and the UK in the early period of diplomacy in 19th century Joseon.
As Korea began to open its ports in the 19th century, in 1883, Korea and the United Kingdom formally concluded a treaty of friendship and commerce. The exhibition sheds light on the era of initial diplomacy between the two nations, centred on facsimiles of the 'United Kingdom-Korea Treaty of 1883', provided by the National Library of Korea and the National Archives of the UK. Moreover, in collaboration with experts in the history of Korea-UK relations, the exhibition examines the perspectives of both countries on the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and the UK. It presents the two countries' views and perceptions of each other at the time of the signing of the treaty, whilst explaining the meaning of trade and diplomatic relations in the complex intertwined history of modern times. Lastly, the exhibition provides historical image data and architectural drawings of the British Embassy in Korea and the first Korean Legation in the UK.
Following the signing of the Treaty in 1883, Koreans and Britain began to have substantial encounters. Among them, British visitors to Korea demonstrated their experiences in Korea in literacy and artistic works. British travellers and artists, such as Isabella Bird Bishop, Henry Savage Landor, and Elizabeth Keith highlighted the relationship between the two nations with their works, reflecting the shifts in the historical and political currents of both countries. The exhibition features insights into the Western perspective on Korea in the modern era, by showcasing digital archives, articles that covered Chosun around 1883 from British newspapers, and the earliest footage of Korea from the era.
This exhibition seeks to provide an opportunity to revisit the historical footprints of Korea and the United Kingdom in each other's countries. Through this, it is hoped that the two nations can better understand the history of their partnership, one that has been built on friendship, shared values and principles since 1883.
We express our gratitude to all the institutions that provided archival material and professional opinions from both nations, including Kensington Heritage, the National Archives, Surrey History Centre, the Independence Hall of Korea, the National Archives of Korea, the National Library of Korea, the National Museum of Korean Contemporary History, and the Seoul Museum of History.