December 3, 2010

French president pledges to return disputed royal manuscripts to South Korea

Posted at 2:02 pm in Similar cases

In a surprising change of mind following an earlier court decision, France has decided to return various disputed manuscripts from the Bibliotheque Nationale to South Korea.

People’s Daily

France to return stolen S. Korean royal document
21:14, November 12, 2010

France pledged Friday to return South Korean royal documents looted during its invasion more than a century ago, once a source of constant diplomatic feud between the two countries.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who held 40-minute summit talks with his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-bak on the sidelines of the G20 economic summit here, promised to lease the ancient documents and allow the five-year lease deal to be renewed.

Lee said he will take it as an official pledge to return the texts from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), stolen during the French invasion in 1866. South Korean civic groups have demanded the return of the cultural asset for years.

Lee and Sarkosy also exchanged their views on the Seoul summit. France will play host to the next G20 summit in 2011.


[News Briefing] France returns looted royal texts on loan

A royal collection of ancient Korean texts Oegyujanggak, Joseon Dynasty royal library, books will finally return home 144 years after being taken by France as war trophies.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed to return the books looted during the Joseon Dynasty on a lease basis and renew the lease contract every five years during summit talks on Friday, putting a period on a 19-year tug-of-war over their return.

“I would like to resolve the thorny problem lingering between the two countries,” Sarkozy was quoted as saying by Hong Sang-pyo, Lee’s senior public affairs secretary. “I would return the books on a five-year renewable lease basis, under the procedures of the domestic laws [of France].” Lee said he accepted it as a “substantive return,” Hong added.

The negotiations began in 1991 when South Korea demanded France to return ancient Korean texts looted in the 19th century. The Oegyujanggak books were looted from the royal library in 1866 and have been kept in the National Library of France to date, while South Korea only learned of the French possession in 1975.

Korean royal texts to be returned are 297 volumes that dictate the protocols of royal ceremonies and rights among more than one thousand books and documents housed in the royal library. One of a total of 298 Oegyujanggak books was returned to Korea in 1993 by then-French President François Maurice Marie Mitterrand.

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