October 28, 2010 11:01
The government is apparently minded to accept a French offer to return historic Korean texts in the form of an indefinitely renewable loan. The two countries are in talks for the return of the Oegyujanggak royal archives looted during a botched invasion in the late 19th century.
Korea had initially proposed a permanent loan, but the French cast around for a different term since French law prohibits permanent loans of state property. They came up with "renewable" instead and surrendered a previous demand for the loan from Korea of a national treasure of equal value.
Seoul hopes to insert a sentence in the agreement that allows the automatic renewal of the loan. "In a situation where the full return of a national treasure is impossible, we need to look at what our practical interests are," said a high-ranking government official. "Once the Oegyujanggak are returned, they will not be sent back to France."
But the Cultural Heritage Administration protested, saying the only acceptable form is a permanent loan. "At least a renewable loan must contain a line in the agreement that gives it the effect of being a permanent loan," it said.
Lee Tae-jin, the head of the royal archives library at Seoul National University, who first proposed to the Korean government to pursue the issue, said, "If a permanent loan is against French law, the best option under the present circumstances is to get the Oegyujanggak here first, since it's virtually impossible to change the law."
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