South Korea's Supreme Court ruled Thursday that a Buddha statue stolen from a Japanese temple in 2012 belongs to the temple, rejecting a South Korean temple's claim to ownership of it.

The decision over the 14th-century statue followed a similar ruling by the Daejeon High Court in February. The statue was stolen by South Korean thieves and recovered by South Korean authorities in 2013.

The top court's ruling comes at a time when Japan-South Korea relations have been improving after the administration of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged in March to resolve a long-standing wartime labor dispute with Japan.