Seoul Seeks Return of Assets from Japan

Seoul City councilmen have decided to retrieve a collection of royal protocols looted by Japan during its colonial rule of Korea.

The Uigwe is a collection of descriptions and illustrations about preparations and processes concerning major events in the royal household and the government of the Chosun Dynasty. It is rated as one of key recorded cultural properties of the period and was included in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in June last year.

The Kyujanggak Archives at Seoul National University and the Academy of Korean Studies keep various collections of uigwe, but 72 are still kept by the Archives and Mausolea Department of the Japanese Imperial Household Agency.

Twelve Seoul city councilmen on Tuesday adopted a resolution urging Japan to return the uigwe looted by the colonial administration in 1922 and another resolution to launch an ad hoc committee to realize this. The two resolutions will be put up for the vote at the 35th regular session of the Seoul City Council that opens next Monday. Seoul councilman Bu Du-wan, the chief proponent of the resolutions, said the uigwe is a key cultural property of the city and should be kept here.

The Seoul City Council plans to send copies of the resolution to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, the Cultural Heritage Administration, the Japanese imperial household, foreign embassies in Seoul, and the capital's sister cities. Masatake Terauchi, Japanese governor-general of Korea, looted many cultural properties, including uigwe collections after demolishing the Odaesan Archives of Chosun's royal records in 1922.

The looted collections also contain Empress Myeongseong's state funeral protocol, a collection of records about events that lasted for about two years following her murder by Japanese assassins in Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul in 1895.

englishnews@chosun.com / Nov. 05, 2008 08:25 KST