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Korea, France Reach Accord on Return of Royal Documents

By Lee Chang-sup, Korea Times, 20 October 2000

French President Jacques Chirac said yesterday that EU countries will consider establishing ties with North Korea based on the improvement of Pyongyang's human rights record and transparency in its nuclear development.

He made the remark at a luncheon hosted by President Kim Dae-jung at Chong Wa Dae yesterday.

Chirac said he expects the EU countries to open a political dialogue with North Korea. As the chair country of the EU Commission, France believes that European countries will expand cooperation with North Korea in various fields. Further progress will be made in accordance with Pyongyang's improvement of human rights and control of nuclear weapons, according to Chirac, who is visiting Korea for the first time in 10 years.

He took note of the fact that EU countries are the biggest donors to North Korea. In addition, they have provided assistance to the KEDO (Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization ) project (to help North Korea build two light-water nuclear power plants), Chirac said.

The two leaders agreed during their summit, held at Chong Wa Dae prior to the luncheon, to solve the issue of returning the Chosun Dynasty books from France to Korea by next year.

Chirac said, We understand the Korean people's aspiration to preserve historic relics and assets. Significant progress was made over the issue of the Chosun Dynasty books, on the basis of mutual confidence, the French president said, so that the Korean people's aspiration to preserve historic relics will be met.

President Kim also echoed that view. He said a good agreement was reached between himself and Chirac on the issue, which he said would serve to promote the Korean people's respect for and friendship toward France.

Chong Wa Dae spokesman Park Joon-young said working-level negotiators of the two nations have made significant progress in resolving the differences on the method of returning the Chosun Dynasty books to Korea. A Foreign Affairs-Trade Ministry official expected the two countries to solve the issue when their representatives meet next month. He said France has become flexible on the issue.

In March, when Kim was visiting Paris, Chirac agreed to solve the issue in an amicable way. The same commitment was made at the second ASEM meeting in London in 1998.

The issue was also raised under the Kim Young-sam administration.

A Korean who is accompanying Chirac said, The Korean media has wrongly reported that France would turn over the royal books to Korea. In fact, discussions have been held concerning ways of cross-lending the royal archives and Korea's historic assets, she said.

Touching on issues involving the Korean peninsula, the French president said, Many events unimaginable in the past have taken place on the Korean peninsula, including the summit meeting last June between President Kim and National Defense Commission Chairman Kim Jong-il..

Chirac said that the hand-in-hand march by South and North Korean athletes at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Sydney last month was a message of hope and brotherhood for all Koreans. The scene was indeed an unforgettable event which would be etched deep in the minds of the people around the world, he added.

During the summit, Kim expressed high appreciation for France's support and assistance in ensuring permanent peace on the Korean peninsula. The president asked Chirac to play a constructive role in facilitating the opening of diplomatic ties between North Korea and nine EU countries, according to spokesman Park.

Kim and Chirac have agreed to push forward joint Korean-French building projects in third countries, including the Beijing-Shanghai high-speed electric railway.

Kim said that, as part of promoting bilateral ties, the Seoul Park in Paris will be constructed. He added that a Korea hall, to be constructed inside the Guimet Museum in Paris, will enable French citizens to view Korean cultural assets that were previously unavailable to them.

Chirac visited the France-Korea Exhibition in Seoul following the summit at Ch ng Wa Dae. It is the first state visit by the French president in seven years since 1993, when then-president Francois Mitterand visited Korea. Chirac and Chinese Premier Zhu Rong-ji are two foreign leaders who are making a state visit to Korea on the sideline of the Seoul Summit, dubbed the third Asia-Europe Summit meeting(ASEM).