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A National Treasure Returns to Korea

Posted July. 15, 2006 06:22,   


The 47 volumes of the Mount Odae edition of the “Annals of the Joseon Dynasty,” returned to its homeland after 93 years, were opened to the public for the first time.

Seoul National University (SNU) held a ceremony on behalf of the return of the royal records in the Gyujanggak building’s auditorium on the first basement floor and also released the books it received from Tokyo University. Tokyo University’s chief librarian attended the ceremony and after reading the letter of the university president, handed the first book to Kim Yeong-sik, director of the Gyujanggak Institute of Korean Studies, as a symbolical gesture.

The books were opened to the reporters and attendees in the exhibition hall after the ceremony ended.

The 47 volumes will be transferred to the Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) on July 19 to be judged for their qualification as a national treasure. The Annals of the Joseon Dynasty currently in the country have been designated as National Treasure No. 151, and if the books are found to be authentic, they too will be designated as a national treasure without question.

CHA and the “committee for the return of the annals of the Joseon dynasty” are planning to hold a celebration on behalf of the books’ return to their homeland in Woljeong Temple and the royal archive in Mount Odae on July 22 and a special exhibition of opening the books to the public at the National Palace Museum of Korea for three months starting July 26. CHA will decide on the final location to place the books during the exhibition period.

Candidates for the location to house the books are currently Woljeong Temple, Seoul National University’s Gyujanggak, the National Palace Museum and the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan. Among them, Woljeong Temple and Gyujanggak are seen as the strongest candidates.

Lee Tae-su, head of SNU’s committee for the return of the books, said, “These books are inseparable with the 27 volumes Seoul National University is currently safekeeping. They should be housed at the university, as they must be researched.” In regards to this, Woljeong Temple’s head Buddhist priest said, “These books were well preserved at the royal archive in Mount Odae since 1606 after Japan’s invasion, but were removed when Japan took control of the country. Placing the books back to their original location is the right thing to do for the people and our history. Mount Odae’s royal archive and Woljeong Temple’s museum are well furnished to house the books.”

Buddhist priest Hyemun, manager of the committee for the return of the annals, said, “It is contradictory to designate the location for the plunderer to donate. Woljeong Temple was placed in charge of the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty when it was housed in the royal archive at Mount Odae, and that is how the temple started its movement of demanding the return of the books such as filing an action against Tokyo University.”

The 47 volumes of the Mount Odae edition were registered as a national property of Korea on July 14.

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