SEOUL, Nov. 12 (UPI) -- France will return a royal library its invaders stole from Korea in the 19th century, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday.
The Uigwe books, royal records from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), were taken by a French force that seized a Korean island in 1866 in reprisal for persecution of French Catholic missionaries. The books are at the National Library of France.
Sarkozy, in Seoul for the Group of 20 summit, said France will return the manuscripts to South Korea on a five-year renewable lease.
"We have agreed (on a plan) in which the lease of the documents will be rolled over every five years," he told Yonhap.
The Uigwe books recorded and illustrated rituals and practices of the royal court. The Japanese took some of them during their 1910-45 rule of Korea, but have promised to give them back.
The books' whereabouts were a mystery to Koreans until 1975 when a Korean bibliographer at the Paris library discovered 298 of them. South Korea has been trying to recover them for 35 years.