TSUSHIMA, NAGASAKI PREF. – One of two ancient Japanese Buddhist statues stolen in 2012 by South Korean thieves arrived Saturday in the southwestern island city of Tsushima, where it was originally kept, the city office said.
A bronze standing figure of the Tathagata Buddha, designated an important national cultural property, was handed over Friday to Japanese representatives in Daejeon, South Korea.
According to officials of the Cultural Affairs Agency, people at the temple that owns the statue said it is slightly chipped. It is not known when the damage occurred, the officials said.
It had been kept at South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage along with the other stolen piece, a seated statue of the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva.
The government has been demanding the return of both statues, taken from temples in Tsushima, after a South Korean court prevented their repatriation on the grounds that they might have been stolen from Korea centuries ago by Japanese pirates.
A South Korean temple claims original ownership of the statue of the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva and a temporary injunction preventing its return to Japan has been issued.