Hundreds of experts both at home and abroad have adopted a recommendation on the return of cultural properties not covered by international legal instruments, Seoul's foreign ministry said Thursday.
The recommendation is the outcome of the International Conference of Experts on the Return of Cultural Property held in Seoul on Oct. 16-17 with the aim to give experts the chance to share their experiences and ideas on repatriating cultural assets, the ministry said.
The two-day forum, hosted by the Cultural Heritage Administration, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, was attended by more than 200 experts in the field from more than 10 countries and international organizations.
According to the recommendation, the conference members seek "equitable solutions" to return cultural objects "not governed by international legal instruments," by taking into consideration relevant circumstances such as "integrity of the cultural context, significance of the object for the States concerned, and the ethical propriety of its removal."
It also calls on the countries concerned to adopt "statements of principles" on such returns on the basis of in-depth research and to use all means available for dispute resolution, according to the ministry.
Any country seeking the return of cultural objects is also advised to develop "appropriate inventories of cultural objects both in their territories and elsewhere, and set priorities among the objects being sought," according to the recommendation.
"We have the UNESCO convention against the illicit export of cultural properties, which allows for stolen objects to be seized, but it has limits as it is not applied retroactively," a ministry official said.
"In this regard, the Seoul recommendation carries significance, as it puts forth international principles for cultural assets not covered by existing legal instruments." (Yonhap)