February 22, 2010 11:20
The government has decided to officially ask the French government for a permanent loan of ancient royal texts French troops looted during a disastrous invasion attempt in the late 19th century.
The request for a permanent loan of books from the Oegyujanggak royal library is a way to get around France's adamant refusal to return them, since it fears this would open the floodgates for similar demands from all over the world that could empty the Louvre.
According to government sources on Sunday, Paris in recent negotiations. asked Seoul to put its official views in writing. The Foreign Ministry is expected to send a formal letter of request to the French government next month.
The government first proposed a long-term loan of the books in late 2007 but recently decided to ask for a permanent loan instead since Korea is the rightful owner.
It remains to be seen whether the proposal will add new momentum to the country's efforts to win their return as negotiations have dragged on for 19 years.
A ministry official said, "We have no idea how France will respond because the government has not yet made an official request."
French troops looted the Oegyujanggak books in 1866 after invading Ganghwa Island on an ill-fated revenge excursion. One of the books, "Hwigyeongwon Wonso Dogam" was returned in the form of a permanent loan in 1993. There are a total of 297 Oegyujanggak books still held by France.
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