Lee, Kan Seal Return of Historic Korean Texts from Japan

      November 15, 2010 08:51

      President Lee Myung-bak (right) shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Naoto Kan after a meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Yokohama, Japan on Sunday. /Yonhap

      Seoul and Tokyo on Sunday singed an agreement for the return of 1,205 volumes of Korean historical texts looted during Japan's colonial rule.

      Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan and his Japanese counterpart Seiji Maehara signed the agreement after a meeting between President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Yokohama, Japan.

      Japan will return the books within six months after the agreement comes into effect. The two countries will also cooperate to develop bilateral cultural exchanges.

      "Japan's decision to return the books confirms its desire to build forward-looking relations of friendship and cooperation," Lee was quoted as saying in the meeting. "We're grateful to Prime Minister Kan and his Cabinet for their efforts in this regard. The return of books that have been buried in the history of the two countries will be helpful to a new Korea-Japan relationship."

      Kan expressed hope "that the transfer of books we took from the Korean Peninsula will serve as an opportunity to further develop bilateral relations. We'll make sure that the books are delivered as soon as possible once parliament approves."

      Some of the original texts that will be returned were on display during the signing.

      The books include 167 volumes of Chosun Dynasty royal protocols called "Uigwe," 99 volumes of "Jeungbo Munheonbigo," a kind of encyclopedia, and one volume of "Daejeon Hoetong," a law book, as well as 938 volumes of Gyujanggak Royal Library texts which the first Japanese resident-general in Korea, Hirobumi Ito, spirited to Japan.

      Ito took 1,028 volumes of Gyujanggak texts out of Korea to the Imperial Household Agency in Tokyo on two occasions during his service. Ninety of them were already returned to Seoul under a pact on cultural properties in 1965 when the two sides restored diplomatic ties. 

      Meanwhile, Lee and Kan agreed that six-party talks about North Korea’s nuclear program should not be a forum for dialogue for dialogue's sake but must promote denuclearization, and that the North must show it is sincerely willing to dismantle its nuclear program. They agreed to cooperate more closely in efforts to resolve the problem.

      Kan also expressed hope of an early resumption of free trade negotiation, while Lee stressed the need to strengthen cooperation in the parts and materials sector.

      They agreed that shuttle diplomacy between the two countries should continue. Kan asked Lee to visit Japan again before the end of this year.

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