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Gov’t to ‘Permanently Borrow’ Royal Books From France

Gov’t to ‘Permanently Borrow’ Royal Books From France

Posted October. 16, 2010 10:56,   


The government said Friday that it could exclude the expression “permanent borrowing” of royal Korean documents if France includes in a bilateral treaty a clause on unconditional and automatic extension of the rental period when getting the books back via rental.

Speculation is growing over if the two countries will strike a deal in their negotiations for Korea’s recovery of the ancient books “Oegyujanggak” from France. French troops took the books in 1866 while invading Ganghwa Island.

A ranking Korean official said, “The books must be returned through permanent rent in principle. If France includes in the rent treaty a clause on specifically allowing automatic and repeated extensions of the three-year rental period without precondition, Seoul could exclude the expression ‘permanent’ as demanded by Paris.”

“The clause must be a written note rather than a verbal pledge.”

The French government reportedly suggested automatic extension of the three-year rental. Paris has opposed Seoul`s demand for return of the ancient books via permanent rental, saying the method violates French laws that ban ownership transfer of public assets and also their permanent rental.

France is taking a proactive stance, however, and says it could conclude negotiations over the books` return if the word “permanent” is excluded from the treaty. The Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea is reportedly willing to accept this concession if the clause on automatic extension of the rental period is specified in the treaty.

A Korean government official said, “The Oegyujanggak matter will be mentioned at the Korea-France bilateral summit to be held on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Seoul next month,” adding, “To what degree the two sides will discuss this matter at the bilateral summit will be determined by the results of ongoing bilateral negotiations.”

If the negotiations are concluded, the two sides will likely agree on the return in principle at the summit. Accordingly, a collection of 297 royal Korean books will be returned in phases by 2016, when the two countries mark 130 years of bilateral ties.

Seoul, however, is reportedly worried over public criticism of the return of the books, which were clearly looted by French troops, in the form of rental, and not even permanent rental.