South Korea on Thursday welcomed an agreement with France to transfer centuries-old Korean royal books from Paris to Seoul between March and May beginning with the first shipment later this month.
Officials from the national museums of the two countries signed the agreement in Paris on Wednesday to transport 297 volumes of the "Oegyujanggak" to Seoul in four shipments from March 28, according to the National Museum of Korea.
South Korea's foreign ministry spokesman Cho Byung-jae welcomed the agreement.
"Our government will continue cooperation with the French government to complete the transfer by May 31," he said in a statement.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed in November to return the royal books to South Korea on a renewable lease when he held talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 major economies in Seoul.
The two sides signed a formal agreement on the matter in February.
The Oegyujanggak books from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) were looted by French troops in 1866 when they invaded a Korean island in retaliation for the persecution of French Catholic missionaries by Koreans. The books can now be found at the National Library of France.
South Korea has long sought to retrieve the books that dictate the protocols of royal ceremonies and rites. One of the books was returned to Korea on a permanent lease basis in 1993 by then French President Francois Mitterrand, but hundreds of other volumes have remained in France.