France to return looted Korean royal books

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Almost 300 royal books from the Joseon Dynasty, looted during the 19th century French invasion of Korea, will make their official return to Seoul on a permanent lease starting March 28, the National Museum of Korea said Wednesday.

Officials of the National Museum signed an official pact on the return of 297 royal book with the National Library of France in Paris, where they are currently located.

The French library agreed to return the books in four installments from March 28 to May 31 this year.

The royal books, called “Uigwe” in Korean, recorded both text and hand-drawn illustrations of significant royal rites and ceremonies of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).

In 1866, the French invaded Korea’s western island of Ganghwa and set fire to a royal library on the island, Oegyujanggak ― an annex of Gyujanggak library in Seoul ― after taking 297 Uigwe volumes and other royal artifacts....

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