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(G20) Chronology of events on Korean royal Uigwe books in France

All Headlines 20:05 November 12, 2010

SEOUL, Nov. 12 (Yonhap) -- The following is a chronology of events leading up to the French agreement with South Korea on Friday to return the stolen Korean Uigwe books.

October 1866 -- French troops invade Korea's western Ganghwa Island in retaliation against its persecution of French Catholic missionaries residing in the Asian country. In the first-ever armed encounter between Korea and a Western power, the French naval troops set fire to a royal library on the island after looting away hundreds of Uigwe books and large amounts of silverware there.

1975 -- The collection of Uigwe, mistakenly classified as Chinese, is discovered by a Korean librarian, Park Byeng-sen, at the National Library of France.

July 1992 -- The South Korean embassy in France sends an official request to France for the return of Uigwe to Korea.

September 1993 -- French President Francois Mitterrand visits Seoul and gives back one of the stolen books. France was competing with Japan and the United States to sell its high-speed train TGV technology to South Korea. France later won the train bid.

2001 -- Diplomatic talks fall through due to disputes over the manner of the books's return.

February 2007 -- A Seoul-based civic group, Cultural Action, files a lawsuit with the Paris administration court demanding the French library return Uigwe to Korea.

December 2009 -- The French court rejects the Korean civic group's demand, saying the royal texts are now part of the "national property" of France. The French court does, however, acknowledge for the first time that the royal texts had been illegally looted.

March 2010 -- The Korean government asks for the return of the 297 Uigwe books on a permanent lease scheme. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner promises "every possible cooperation" during his meeting with President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul.

Nov. 12, 2010 -- France agrees to return Uigwe to South Korea. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agree on a five-year renewable lease scheme on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Seoul.


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