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Lee returns from European tour

President met woman who discovered books looted by France and campaigned for their return


President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday returned home from a weeklong tour of Germany, Denmark and France during which he held summit talks with his counterparts to expand economic and political cooperation.

Before leaving Paris on Saturday, Lee met the Korean historian Park Byeng-sen, who in 1975 found the ancient Korean royal books that had been looted by French troops in the 19th century at the National Library of France and urged Paris to return them.

Thirty-five years later, France agreed to send all 297 volumes of the “Oegyujanggak” books to Korea in a summit deal last year between Lee and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The third and penultimate batch of the Joseon Dynasty books arrived in Korea last week.

The presidents office expects the resolution of the thorniest issue between the two countries to boost bilateral trade and investment in various fields including the aerospace and defense industries.

Also on Saturday, the president discussed with five renowned French scholars the need for global governance, the changing strategic relationship between the European Union and East Asia, outlook of inter-Korean relations, climate change and green growth strategies as well as the future of the nuclear power industry and nuclear safety.
President Lee Myung-bak waves farewell to reporters in Seoul Airport in Seongnam on Monday after a trip to Germany, Denmark and France. Lee is accompanied by Senior Secretary to the President for Political Affairs Chung Jin-suk (left), Public Administration and Security Minister Maeng Hyung-kyu (second from left) and Presidential Chief of Staff Yim Tae-hee (right). (Yonhap News)
President Lee Myung-bak waves farewell to reporters in Seoul Airport in Seongnam on Monday after a trip to Germany, Denmark and France. Lee is accompanied by Senior Secretary to the President for Political Affairs Chung Jin-suk (left), Public Administration and Security Minister Maeng Hyung-kyu (second from left) and Presidential Chief of Staff Yim Tae-hee (right). (Yonhap News)

On Friday, Lee received an honorary doctorate from Paris Diderot University after summit talks and a business luncheon with Sarkozy.

“The Joseon Uigye’s place is Seoul because it embodies the soul of the Korean people,” said Paris Diderot University president Vincent Berger as he granted the degree to Lee.

After their summit talks Friday, Lee and Sarkozy issued a joint statement on the Group of 20 in which the former and incumbent G20 chairs renewed their commitment to make concrete efforts to reduce food and energy price volatility and mitigate its impacts on the most vulnerable.

“(Korea and France) support the active work undertaken to improve the transparency in both physical and derivative markets ... increase food security and strengthen the regulation and supervision of commodity derivatives,” the joint statement read.

Earlier last week in Berlin, on the first leg of his trip, Lee offered a conditional invitation to North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the nuclear security summit of some 50 world leaders in Seoul next year.

“If the North firmly agrees on denuclearization, I plan to invite Kim Jong-il to the second Nuclear Security Summit next spring,” Lee said during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after their summit talks Monday.

A North Korean committee in charge of inter-Korean relations lashed out at Lee’s overture, calling it a “defiant absurdity.”

A Cheong Wa Dae official said there would be an opportunity for Seoul to discuss Lee’s proposal with Pyongyang, hinting possible efforts to break the inter-Korean stalemate.

In Copenhagen, Lee forged a “green growth alliance” with Denmark for close cooperation in development of renewable energy as part of efforts to tap into potential markets for eco-friendly technologies such as China.

Denmark agreed to contribute $15 million for the next three years to the Global Green Growth Institute that Lee established last year to help developing countries adopt a green economy.

During his visits to Frankfurt, Copenhagen and Paris, Lee met with local business leaders to urge them to invest more in Korea when Seoul’s free trade agreement with the European Union goes into effect July 1.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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