• Kyodo


South Korean Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Kim Jong-deok said Sunday he will wait for prosecutors to make a decision on whether to return two Buddhist statues stolen from Japan.

Kim made the remark at a press conference after Japanese, South Korean and Chinese culture officials met earlier in the day in Yokohama.

Culture minister Hakubun Shimomura on Saturday asked Kim to return the statues, which were stolen from Tsushima, an island halfway between the two countries.

South Korean prosecutors will decide whether to return the statues after the people who stole and smuggled them into South Korea are convicted. One is designated as an important Japanese cultural property.

But South Korean Buddhists claim that one of the statues had been plundered by Japan in the past, and a South Korean court has granted an injunction to suspend their return until it can be confirmed that they were legitimately taken to Japan.

Shimomura said after the meeting that the statues should be returned as soon as possible.

At the press conference, Kim also said he proposed to Shimomura that the two countries set up a consultative body to discuss the return of Korean cultural assets taken to Japan during its brutal colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

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