The epitaph plaque for Madam Jo (1841-1892), the wife of Park Chung-yang (1841-1905), the first Korean diplomatic minister sent to the US in 1887, has been brought back to Korea and returned to their descendants, the Cultural Heritage Administration announced Tuesday.
Professor Emeritus Mark A. Peterson from Brigham Young University, who owned the artifact for more than 40 years after purchasing it in an antiques store, donated the epitaph plaque to Park Chan-su, the current head of the Bannam Park Clan, at the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation's office in Seoul on Monday. Park Chan-su is the great-grandson of Diplomatic Minister Park Chung-yang and currently works as a professor at Korea University.
The epitaph plaque, dedicated to Madam Jo, a member of the Yangju Jo Clan, whose full name is not specified, is a typical late Joseon period artifact and was created in 1892. It encapsulates Jo's family in 122 characters on a single ceramic plaque.
Madam Jo had two daughters and a son, and was laid to rest in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, in 1892. In 1921, her tomb was relocated to Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, for a joint burial with her husband. The condition of the burial suggests that the epitaph was damaged and taken away. The source of the damage remains unknown.
Peterson, a scholar of Korean history who earned his doctorate in East Asian studies from Harvard University, discovered the piece at an antiques store in Insa-dong in Seoul. He acquired the epitaph plaque for academic purposes and utilized it in his lectures.