Japan to demand that South Korea return stolen Buddhist statues

Japan Times, Feb 28, 2013

Kyoto, Japan -- The government will demand that South Korea swiftly return two Buddhist statues that were stolen last year from a temple on the Nagasaki Prefecture island of Tsushima, which is situated about halfway between the two countries, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday.

“We will call for the speedy return (of the statues) through diplomatic channels and in accordance with international law,” Suga told reporters.

His comments came a day after a provisional ruling by the Daejeon District Court in South Korea that one of the statues, Kanzeon Bosatsu Zazo, from Kannonji, a temple on Tsushima, should not be returned until it becomes clear through legal proceedings if the Japanese temple acquired it in a lawful manner.

The decision came amid accusations in South Korea, particularly among Buddhist circles, that the statue had been plundered by Japan.

The Buseoksa Temple in Seosan, central South Korea, claims the statue was made there in the 14th century.

Japan aims to recover the statue based on the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, according to officials.