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The Republic of Korea State Visit

Release date: Tuesday 21 November 2023

The King and Queen with President Yoon Suk Yeol and the First Lady. ©

This November, The King is hosting a State Visit from the President of the Republic of Korea, His Excellency Yoon Suk Yeol. The President and his wife will stay at Buckingham Palace as guests of The King and Queen. 

2023 marks the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Britain and Korea. Here we look back at the links between the two nations and important examples of Korean art in the Royal Collection.

Britain was the first European country to establish formal diplomatic links with Korea. A Treaty of Friendship and Commerce was signed in Seoul in 1883, and a British ambassador was appointed to the Korean court the following year.

One of the first Europeans to travel to the Korean peninsula was the British explorer Henry Savage-Landor. Setting out in 1888, he went on to meet members of the Korean royal family and later wrote an account of his experiences which he dedicated to Queen Victoria. Shortly afterwards, King Gojong of Korea sent gifts for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. The presents included embroidered scrolls and pouches and two decorative incense burners. Each of the incense burners is decorated with bats and leaves.

Incense burner sent to Queen Victoria for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897 (RCIN 75047) and porcelain vase presented to Queen Elizabeth II in 1986 by President Chun Doo-Hwan (RCIN 11730). ©

In 1986, President Chun Doo-Hwan visited the United Kingdom, marking the first visit to the country by a Head of State from the Republic of Korea. At a luncheon at Buckingham Palace, he presented Queen Elizabeth II with two white porcelain vases by the eminent ceramicist Shin Sang-Ho, which echo traditional forms and techniques. White porcelain of this kind was the most prevalent form of ceramic in Korea during the 500-year Joseon dynasty (1392–1910).

Jewellery box presented to Queen Elizabeth II in April 1999 by President Kim Dae-Jung (RCIN 74640).©

The first British Sovereign to make a State Visit to the Republic of Korea was Queen Elizabeth II, in April 1999. On her arrival, President Kim Dae-Jung presented her with a jewellery box showcasing the Korean technique najeon chilgi, where objects coated with lacquer are inlaid with mother of pearl.

During the State Banquet, Her Late Majesty spoke of the two nations’

…times of shared history; the vibrant economic and commercial links; education, science and technology; and the growing interest in each other’s cultures.

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II receiving gift of a vase of green-grey celadon from the citizens and Mayor of Andong (RCIN 2361273).©

The four-day itinerary included a performance of a traditional masked dance called Cheoyongmu at the walled village of Hahoe in Andong Province, which is famed for its preservation of rural culture. This was the first time a foreign head of state had visited the village, and coincided with Her Late Majesty’s 73rd birthday. The citizens and Mayor of Andong marked the occasion with gifts of a dance mask and a vase of green-grey celadon, historically the main type of ceramic made on the Korean peninsula.

The King, as The Prince of Wales, visited the Republic of Korea in November 1992.

The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.