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S. Korea, France agreement on return of stolen documents

South Korea and France are set to sign an agreement on the return of Korean royal documents looted during the French invasion more than a century ago, the foreign ministry said in Seoul on February 7.

Park Heung-shin, Seoul's Ambassador to France, and Paul Jean-Oritz, Asia and Oceania director at the French Foreign Ministry, will sign the deal in Paris on the retrieval of the Oegyujanggak books from the Joseon Dynasty, Korea's last ruling monarchy (1392-1910), stolen during the French invasion in 1866. They document court protocol.

All the 297 volumes are to be returned to a museum in Seoul before the end of May on a renewable five-year lease. Technical and administrative aspects of the deal will also be discussed. The monarchy was abolished when Korea became a republic in 1897. After decades of Japanese colonial rule, it split after World War Two with the establishment of a Soviet-backed Communist state in the north.

The French navy seized the volumes from a royal library annex on the Ganghwa island northwest of the capital Seoul as it retreated from Korea following an invasion in 1866.

South Korea has sought their return after a scholar discovered them at the French national library in 1975.

The agreement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy as he met South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Seoul ends a longstanding dispute.— Xinhua

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