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A National Treasure Returns to SNU

  • July 18, 2006
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Ceremony held to mark return of historic records from Japan
Joseon-era annals to be housed at university

Seoul National University held a ceremony Friday to mark the return to Korea of the Mount Odae edition of the 'Joseon Wangjo Sillok', commonly known in English as the official"Annals of Joseon Dynasty" or just the 'Sillok'. The decision to release the 47 remaining volumes was recently made by Tokyo University, where they had been held.

Seoul National University president Chung Un-chan said that the school will be"unsparing in the preservation and research" of the primary historical material.

The Mount Odae version is expected to be named a national treasure by the related subcommittee of the Cultural Properties Committee when it meets on July 19. The same week, there will also be a special event held at Woljeong Temple, where the historical records had originally been kept before being taken to Japan. Then, beginning on July 26, the annals will be on special exhibition at the National Palace Museum until October of this year.

The is the official historical record, described in chronological order, of the history of the Joseon state and the 472 period (1392-1802) between kings Taejo and Cheoljong. It covers a while range of subjects, from Joseon society and culture to politics and other areas, and is composed of 1,893 sections recorded in 888 volumes.

Until the early 20th century, versions were tucked for safekeeping in special facilities at Mount Taebaek, Mount Jeongjok, Mount Jeoksang, and Mount Odae.

The Mount Jeoksang edition was kept in the residential library of Korea's remaining imperial family in Seoul, but was taken by North Korean forces during the war and today is kept at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang.

The editions kept at Taebaek and Jeongjok were taken to Japan in 1910 but have been at Seoul National University since liberation from Japanese colonial rule in 1945.

The Mount Odae edition was taken by the first Japanese colonial governor in Korea in 1913. What remains of it is being returned after 93 years.

In March, the head monk at Woljeong Temple formed a committee to work for the return of the Mount Odae edition and was negotiating with Tokyo University when in May the school suddenly announced it was going to"donate" the annals to Seoul National University.

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