Japan to return looted ancient texts

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Japan to return looted ancient texts

The upper house in the Japanese Diet yesterday ratified an agreement to return ancient Korean texts to Seoul, completing a legal process considered key to improving bilateral relations.

The House of Councillors in Tokyo approved the ratification on a 145-86 vote about a month after the House of Representatives, the lower house, passed the bill. It is expected to take effect next Tuesday following a cabinet meeting.

Last November, Japan agreed to return a total of 1,205 volumes of archives that were seized during its 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea, including texts of royal protocols known as Uigwe.

The deal represented Tokyo’s first concrete step forward after Prime Minister Naoto Kan in August pledged to return the books and other Korean cultural relics as a gesture of goodwill. Japan is to return the texts within six months after the ratification.

The main opposition Liberal Democratic Party voiced some opposition, saying Kan hastily reached the agreement without demanding Korea’s return of Japanese books, but it didn’t win much support in the house.

The April passage in the lower house had virtually completed the process.

If a treaty between Japan and another country is ratified by the lower house, it goes into effect after 30 days, regardless of the decision of the upper house.

Uigwe is a collection of documents from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) containing details on procedures and formalities for weddings, funerals, banquets and receiving foreign missions as well as cultural activities of the royal family.

Japan is believed to be holding 167 Uigwe books.

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