Three people who contributed to bringing home royal Korean books that were looted by France in the 19th century were honored by the government on Thursday.
Lee Tae-jin, president of the National Institute of Korean History, Lee Sung-mi, honorary professor at the Academy of Korean Studies, and Yoo Bok-ryeol of the Foreign Ministry public relations bureau each won a medal.
The history institute chief was the first to raise the need for taking back the ancient books from the French government while Prof. Lee contributed in the process via scholastic research. Yoo handled practical affairs in France, Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan said during the award ceremony Thursday.
Under last year’s agreement, France has returned hundreds of volumes of Korea’s centuries-old “Oegyujanggak books” on a five-year renewable lease.
The books on the protocols of royal ceremonies of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) were taken by French troops in 1866 and have since been kept at France’s national library.
Hundreds of thousands of Korean cultural assets are scattered around the world because of tragedies such as the 1950-53 Korean War and Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, an issue the country has recently been working more actively to resolve.
By Shin Hae-in (firstname.lastname@example.org