Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will bring a set of ancient Korean books with him when he visits Seoul later Tuesday for a summit with President Lee Myung-bak, the presidential office announced, in a friendly gesture toward a former colony.
The five books are part of a 1,205-volume collection that includes "Uigwe" and other ancient Korean archives that Japan pledged to return to South Korea to back up an apology that former Prime Minister Naoto Kan offered last year for Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The five, which will be the first batch of books to be returned, will be handed to Lee during Wednesday's summit talks, the office said in a statement. Under a treaty with Seoul, Tokyo is required to return all of the books by Dec. 10.
Uigwe is a collection of documents from the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) that records and illustrates procedures and formalities conducted for weddings, funerals, banquets and receiving foreign missions as well as cultural activities of the royal family.
The five books to be returned consist of one volume of "Daeryeuiwe," which recorded the 1897 enthronement ceremony of Emperor Gojong of the Joseon Dynasty; two volumes of "Wangsejagaryedogamuigwe," which recorded the royal wedding ceremony of King Sunjong, Korea's last king; and two volumes of "Jeongmyoeoje," a royal anthology of writings by King Jeongjo, according to the office.
Tokyo's agreement to return Korean cultural assets represented progress from Japan's previous position that all issues regarding its colonial rule of Korea were settled in a 1965 package compensation deal the two countries reached while normalizing diplomatic relations.
Tokyo returned a total of 1,432 cultural assets to South Korea at the time.
Noda's visit is his first to South Korea since he took office in early September. Lee and Noda held their first summit in New York on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly later that month.
Relations between South Korea and Japan have often suffered setbacks due to territorial and historical rows related to their colonial past, as Tokyo has attempted to glorify its militaristic history and lay claim to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.
In Wednesday's summit, Lee and Noda are expected to discuss ways to improve bilateral relations, cooperation in dealing with North Korea and a possible free trade agreement between the two countries.