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Looted Korean royal seals to return home from US

WASHINGTON -- Two ancient Korean royal seals will be officially handed over to South Korea from the United States this week, decades after they were illegally shipped out of the country during the Korean War, officials said Thursday.

The Royal Seal of Queen Munjeong and the Royal Seal of King Hyeonjong will be transferred to South Korea in a ceremony at South Korea's Embassy in Washington on Friday, officials said. The seals will be sent back home aboard the presidential jet when President Moon Jae-in heads back from Washington on Saturday, they said.

The Royal Seal of Queen Munjeong is a gilt bronze seal made in the second year of King Myeongjong in 1547 to honor Queen Munjeong (1501-1565), the third wife of Joseon Dynasty's 11th King Jungjong.

The Royal Seal of King Hyeonjong was created in 1651 to mark the installation of Hyeonjong as the crown prince of King Hyojong. The two seals have a square body with a turtle-shaped knob, but the latter one made of jade is slightly bigger.

The two Korean artifacts were unlawfully carried out of the country at an unknown time and handed over to an American citizen living in Los Angeles. He sold the Royal Seal of Queen Munjeong to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2000 while keeping the seal of King Hyeonjong in his possession.

The Homeland Security Investigations of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement seized them in September 2013 following the request from South Korea's Cultural Heritage Administration to investigate the circumstances surrounding the two artifacts.

In July 2014, the CHA confirmed the authenticity of the two royal seals in the US But it took three years before the items could be transferred to South Korea through domestic legal procedures in the US. (Yonhap)