S. Korea defends contract to buy old legation building

By 박한나
  • Published : Sept 20, 2012 - 09:45
  • Updated : Sept 20, 2012 - 09:45
South Korea on Wednesday dismissed an allegation that it has purchased a historical building in Washington at an unreasonably high price.

South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration recently signed a contract with a local lawyer to buy his Logan Circle mansion here that was used as the Korean legation in the U.S. more than a century ago.

The building was forcibly taken over by Japan during its colonization of Korea in 1910. It was later sold to a U.S. citizen.

After three decades of efforts, South Korea sealed a deal with the owner of the house in August. The purchase price is $3.5 million, according to data submitted to the National Assembly.

But the Washington Post cited records of the Washington, D.C., government showing the property is "currently appraised for $1.65 million."

A South Korean embassy official played down the appraised price.

"There has been almost no transaction of real estate in this region," the official said on the condition of anonymity. "It is our understanding that the price in the local government's documents is based on an appraisal 10 years ago."

He also emphasized the historic value of the building, which is the only former overseas establishment of the Korean Empire which still has its original shape.

South Korea and the U.S. mark 130 years of formal diplomatic relationships this year.

Seoul remains locked in bitter history and territorial disputes with Tokyo. (Yonhap News)