Seoul and Tokyo are discussing whether President Lee Myung-bak should accept his Japanese counterpart’s invitation for a state visit this fall, Lee’s spokesperson said Thursday.
Prime Minister Nato Kan extended the invitation during his summit talks with Lee held Sunday in Tokyo on the sidelines of the annual Korea-Japan-China summit.
“President Lee said Seoul’s foreign ministry will hold working-level discussions with its Japanese counterpart on whether the visit can be made in the fall,” presidential spokeswoman Kim Hee-jung said.
Should Lee make the state visit, Korea and Japan are expected to issue a joint statement to renew their commitment for a future-oriented bilateral relationship for the next 100 years. The two governments are also reviewing a plan to deliver the ancient Korean books that Japan looted during its colonial rule over its neighbor.
If Lee decides to travel to Japan and sign a joint statement with Kan, it would be the first Korea-Japan joint statement since the one issued by former President Kim Dae-jung and former Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo in 1998.
The lower house of the Japanese Diet passed a bill last month ratifying the return of the 1,205 volumes of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) texts including 167 royal books called Uigwe to Korea. Seoul officials then expected the books to be returned sometime this month, considering the legal process necessary for the repatriation.
The delivery procedure was delayed, however, due to rejection by the main opposition Liberal Democratic Party at the upper house of the Japanese Diet earlier this month.
Nevertheless, if an agreement between Japan and another country is ratified by the lower house, it automatically goes into effect after 30 days regardless of the decision at the upper house.
A Cheong Wa Dae official said last week that the return of the Uigwe will take place sometime after May 28, a month after the ratification by the Japanese lower house.
Uigwe is a collection of royal documents from the Joseon Dynasty that records and illustrates procedures and formalities conducted for weddings, funerals, banquets and receiving foreign missions as well as cultural events of the royal family.
Japan is believed to be holding 167 Uigwe books, including 81 originals, at its Imperial Household Agency, after it took the books away from a South Korean Buddhist temple in 1922. South Korea has 3,563 Uigwe books, 703 of them originals.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com