Thursday, April 14, 2011

Oegyujanggak books returned

They're back. Or at least 75 of them. The rest of the 297 Oegyujanggak volumes will arrive by the end of May 2011.

This is a major mediatic event (and not only for Asiana Airlines, who sponsored beyond the shipment the mugs of experts interviewed on the TV) : in 1866, following the massacre of French missionaries, French troops brought back home (or looted, if you prefer) royal books from the Joseon dynasty and the Oegyunjanggak library and Korean authorities have been asking for their return ever since they discovered that the treasure was still held in the Bibliotheque Nationale de France.

About twenty years ago, President Francois Mitterrand brought one volume on a permanent lease during his salesman trip to Korea (said Korea ended up with the TGV but not the rest of the books), and last year, Nicolas Sarkozy pledged to finish the job after the Seoul G20 Summit. This time, the lease is automatically renewable, and required a vote at the French national assembly (the transfer got many museums nervous).

The most valuable Korean book kept in France remains Jikji, recognized by the UNESCO as the world's first metal type (1377, decades before Gutenberg's Bible).

Seoul Village 2011

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