National / Crime & Legal

South Korean court proposes returning stolen Buddhist statue to Japanese temple

Kyodo

A South Korean high court on Friday proposed returning an ancient Buddhist statue claimed by a South Korean temple back to the Japanese temple it was stolen from in 2012, local media reported.

The proposal made by the Daejon High Court also says the Buseoksa Temple in Seosan, which claims rightful ownership of the Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva statue, should be given a replica instead.

The Korean temple criticized the court’s offer, according to reports, and questioned the rationale behind the proposed return of what it described as Korean cultural property. The statue was stolen from Kannonji Temple on Tsushima, an island in Nagasaki Prefecture.

The temple filed a lawsuit in April 2016, claiming the statue had been illegally taken to Japan several hundred years ago. A representative of the South Korean government, which is now in possession of the statue, has since said “Buseoksa Temple lacks evidence that it is the owner.”

A district court in January 2017 backed a request by the temple to take possession of the statue, prompting Seoul to appeal.

The statue is one of the two stolen in October 2012 from religious sites on Tsushima. It is being stored at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage in Daejon.