Japan to Return Over 1,000 Looted Texts to Korea

Japan has agreed to return 1,205 volumes of priceless Korean texts including a collection of Chosun Dynasty royal protocols seized during its occupation of the peninsula between 1910 and 1945. Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and his Japanese counterpart Seiji Maehara agreed to the deal in a phone conversation Monday evening, the Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

But archives containing the official seal of the Chosun Dynasty court library and royal texts recording lectures by former kings will not be returned due to ongoing disputes over when and how they were spirited to Japan.

The ministers agreed that 1,205 texts originating from the Korean Peninsula will be returned within six months after the agreement goes into effect. The two will sign the agreement but the actual return will not take place this year since it requires approval by the Diet.

An illustrated text titled An illustrated text titled "The Protocols of the Office of Royal Seals" kept in Japan's Imperial Household Agency describes how to make the seal of the state of the Chosun Dynasty. /Yonhap

Korean texts in the possession of private Japanese citizens were excluded. Japan is set to return the entire 167 volumes of the collection of Chosun royal protocols called "Uigwe" as well as 938 texts from the Chosun Dynasty library. "We have yet to be informed by Japan about the details" of the other texts, a government official said.

Some officials view the decision as an earnest effort by the Japanese government to build up friendly, cooperative and future-oriented ties with Korea by making good on Prime Minister Naoto Kan's promise on Aug. 10 marking the 100th anniversary of the annexation.

Korea is insisting that the word "return" be used in the agreement, but Japan is apparently bent on "transfer," claiming that Korea's right to demand the return of cultural assets lapsed when Seoul and Tokyo signed an agreement normalizing ties back in 1965.

englishnews@chosun.com / Nov. 09, 2010 12:03 KST