Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Return of Korean Royal Archives Seized by French Forces in 1866

Apologies for the self-promotion, but I have new piece entitled "'Inalienable' Archives: Korean Royal Archives as French Property under International Law" that was just published in the International Journal of Cultural Property.  The official link to the article from the publisher is here. I have, however, also posted the full-text here.

The piece is a case note discussing the colorful history of these archives and analyzing a 2009 decision of a French administrative tribunal that rejected an attempt by a Korean cultural organization to compel the return of the Korean royal archives from France. The archives are known as Uigwe (see earlier discussion here) and they were captured by French naval forces in an 1866 invasion. As bonus coverage, I have uploaded the full-text of the French decision here (thanks to Stephane Cottin) and an English translation here (thanks to Nicole Efros).  The case is a rare occurrence of judicial treatment of the issue of ownership of archives seized during military operations.

An unfortunate update on the story is that Park Byeong-seon, the Korean bibliographer and historian who discovered the Korean Uigwe in the collections of the Bibliotheque nationale de France in 1975 (they had been mis-categorized as Chinese manuscripts), passed away late last year.  She lived, however, to see the return of the Uigwe to South Korea last June pursuant to a renewable loan agreement between France and South Korea. At the celebration of their return she challenged Korea with the "enormous" task of making sure "that the royal books never go back to France and remain here forever."