[LECTURE] 2014 June Lecture작성일   2014-05-23

Nostoi: Recent Trends in the Return of Cultural Objects to their Countries of Origin and their Implications for Korea

Lecturer: Keun-Gwan Lee

Professor, School of Law, Seoul National University


Recently, one often encounters stories about the return of cultural objects to their countries of origin. To adduce some prominent examples, the Obelisk of Axum (from Italy to Ethiopia), the Oekyujanggak Manuscripts (from France to Korea), a number of paintings confiscated by Nazi Germany from Jewish owners, the relics taken from Yuanmingyuan (Beijing, China) come to mind. The well-known case of Parthenon Marbles between Greece and Great Britain is still unresolved.

With the rising awareness of this issue in the world community, one needs to come up with a balanced and equitable way of addressing this highly complicated question. In this lecture, he will discuss the role and significance of cultural objects in forming the cultural identity of a given community or group. He will go on to look into the current state of international norms on the return of cultural objects to their countries of origin, focusing on various international conventions and the UNESCO Inter-Governmental Committee. This will be followed by an investigation into some noteworthy cases of returning cultural objects to their countries of origin. In so doing, He will try to highlight some new trends in this issue of substantial international significance.

Korea has regarded itself as a “victim state” as far as the return of cultural objects is concerned. As a result, Korean society’s interest in this issue is exceptionally high, particularly when the cultural object in question finds itself in Japan. In this lecture, He will conduct a critical review of the current Korean position on the issue and venture to suggest a more mature and balanced approach.


Keun-Gwan Lee is a Professor at the School of Law, Seoul National University. He received his LL.B. from Seoul National University and his LL.M. and Ph.D. from Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Cambridge respectively. He currently teaches Public International Law, the History and Theory of International Law, and the Law of the Sea, among others.

He has taught at various institutions including the Republic of Korea Naval Academy, the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Tokyo and the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii. In the summer of 2010, he worked as the director of studies at the Hague Academy of International Law. He currently serves as the Chairperson of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin.

His research interests include, among others, the law of the sea (esp. maritime delimitation), state succession, history and method of international law, the international protection of cultural heritage and the legal relations between South and North Korea. He has written extensively on wide-ranging subjects of public international law.






Education room (1st floor), Seoul Museum of History

55 Saemunan-ro, Jongno-gu, Seoul


Date and Time

June 9 (Mon)

11:30 A.M. to 13:00 P.M





Lunch Fee (optional)

10,000 won(Sandwich & drink) if you’d like to have one.

* Reservation for lunch is required.

* Donation receipt can be issued.

* Wire transfer to KEB a/c#631-000503-181 (YÉOL) or at the venue in cash


Contact (Registration required)


T: 82-2-745-5878

F: 82-2-736-5878