In the news yesterday: France returned two shipping containers of books that had been taken from Korea in a raid 145 years ago.
This is particularly interesting because yesterday I was at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul with my husband and two of my children. While we were there we participated in a guided tour in English (it is amazing how easy it is to get around Seoul and learn things as an English speaking person with no Korean Language. Amazing. But I am now more determined to go home and learn Korean so I can visit again and be less of an idiot.) Our guide pointed out several of the highlights of the museum's permanent exhibit and the last one was the book "Jikji" (I believe is the title.) It is believed to be the oldest book printed on movable type.
Now, I know that many of us learned that the Gutenberg Bible was the first book printed on movable type- printed by Johannes Gutenberg, published in 1452. And there is still plenty of testimony and scholarly writing proclaiming that this is so.
The Koreans, however, disagree.
The Jikji was published in 1377.
And what does this have to do with the news regarding France's return of the old books? Well, the book on display in the National Museum of Korea is a duplicate. The original is still in France.
It appears that Korea has requested that it be returned multiple times and mutliple times they have been politely told no. All the articles I found regarding yesterday's shipment mentioned books that had to do with court protocal, and I am sure they are important documents to Korean scholars and Korean history. But none of the articles mentioned the return of the Jikji, now believed to be the oldest existing book printed with movable type.
When the guide mentioned that the book in the museum was in fact a duplicate and the original was in France I rolled my eyes at my husband.
It seems to me that there was much hullabaloo in the 1980's or 1990's regarding art work that had been taken from France during WWII that had been on display in Russia. If memory serves, France loudly demanded the return of National Treasure after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the USSR.
Well, I did just google: Russia returns art to France, art plundered during WWII returned, and a few other combinations and I cannot verify that any of the art taken during WWII was in fact returned.
So maybe France made a hullabaloo and lost out. Who is to say really?
An internet search provided many additional facts regarding movable type.
This recent article was most interesting: