France asked for lease of royal texts

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France asked for lease of royal texts

The Korean government has filed a request with France for the “permanent lease” of royal texts from the 19th century, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday.

The move comes a few days after the civic group Cultural Action appealed a December decision by a French administrative court that affirmed French ownership of the ancient documents. The court decided at the time that the volumes had been in the National Library of France for more than a century and how they were acquired didn’t affect ownership under international conventions.

The 296 volumes in question belonged to a Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) library named Oegyujanggak. After Korea learned of the French possession in 1975, the books became a thorny diplomatic issue between the two countries.

Under the permanent lease, Korea would borrow the books and in return would send other Korean artifacts to the French museum for display.

One of the books was returned in 1993, when then-President Kim Young-sam and his French counterpart, Francois Mitterrand, reached an agreement under which Korea would import the TGV high-speed train technology from France in exchange for the French return of a volume.

Permanent lease does not give full ownership to Korea, and Cultural Action has called for a complete ownership transfer.

By Yoo Jee-ho []
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