Professor: France holds more stolen Korean relics

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Professor: France holds more stolen Korean relics

A Korean professor teaching in France said yesterday he has discovered a list of additional Korean cultural properties believed to be stored in the National Library of France.

Li Jine-mieung, professor of Korean history at Jean Moulin University Lyon 3, said the catalog lists three marble plates and a book made of jade apparently stolen from the 19th-century Joseon Dynasty royal library called Oegyujanggak.

Korean historians believe the French military looted the library during their invasion in 1866. Li said the list was titled Collections Coreennes, or Korean Collection.

The French national library already possesses texts on royal protocol, the “Uigwe,” which were discovered in the French national library in 1975. Li said his list includes the Uigwe’s 297 volumes and other relics already confirmed to be in the library. One of the Uigwe volumes was returned to Korea under a 1993 agreement.

Li said he obtained the list from the descendants of Pierre-Gustave Rose, who was the French Navy admiral at the time of the invasion. Li said he believes Admiral Rose compiled a short list of these artifacts and handed it over to the French national library, and then the library presented him with a copy of a more detailed catalog.

“I am certain the marble plates and the jade book are in the library [along with other artifacts],” Li said.

The Uigwe books have been a thorny diplomatic issue between the two countries. Li suggested that as Korean activists and the government try to retrieve stolen relics through various channels, they should present the latest list to the French government and demand the library reveal any additional items in its possession.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner was scheduled to arrive in Seoul today for a two-day visit. He and his Korean counterpart, Yu Myung-hwan, will discuss the issue of the royal texts, the Foreign Ministry has said.

Jack Lang, former French culture minister, told Korean correspondents in Paris yesterday that he was optimistic that the two countries would eventually resolve the contentious issue.

He said the most important thing was for the two countries to have respect for one another and reach the appropriate resolution.

Lang said President Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to find a solution and there may be technical and legal measures to that end. He didn’t elaborate further.

Li’s discovery comes just two weeks after the Korean government asked France for a permanent lease of the Uigwe. Earlier this year, a local civic group called Cultural Action appealed a French court’s rejection last December of its request for the return of these ancient works.

The court ruled the relics had been in French possession for more than a century and regardless of how they were acquired, they remain French national property.

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

By Yoo Jee-ho []

Related Korean Article

‘한국 컬렉션’ 목록서 확인, 학계 “반환 협상 나서야

1866년 병인양요 때 강화도 외규장각에서 약탈당한 조선의 문화재가 프랑스국립도서관(BNF)에 추가로 있을 가능성을 뒷받침하는 자료가 발견됐다. 이에 따라 프랑스가 반환을 약속했던 외규장각 도서뿐만 아니라 다른 문화재도 돌려받는 외교 협상을 벌여야 한다는 주장이 나오고 있다. 프랑스 리옹3대학의 이진명(55·역사학) 교수는 18일 1867년 파리왕립도서관(BNF의 전신)이 작성해 프랑스 극동함대 소속 피에르 귀스타브 로즈 제독에게 보낸 것으로 추정되는 문서의 사본을 공개했다. ‘한국 컬렉션(COLLECTION COREENNE)’이라는 제목이 달린 이 문서에는 외규장각 의궤 필사본 297권과 인쇄본 43권뿐만 아니라 한문으로 표기된 대리석판 3점, 병풍처럼 접을 수 있는 옥으로 만든 옥책(玉冊) 한 권 등이 적혀 있다.

로즈 제독은 강화도 침략 때 훔친 외규장각 문화재를 목록과 함께 프랑스로 보냈다. 이 교수가 발굴한 자료는 로즈 제독이 보낸 문화재를 왕립도서관이 잘 받았다는 것을 확인하는 문서다. 그동안 의궤·지도 등은 BNF에 있는 것으로 확인됐으나 대리석판과 옥책의 행방은 알려지지 않았다.

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