Japanese government representative Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stated on Wednesday of this week that they will be demanding South Korea return two Buddhist statues that were stolen from a temple on the island of Tsushima in Nagasaki Prefecture. Seoul has been slow to consider their return, believing they may have originated in South Korea, and should not have been in Japan’s possession in the first place.
Secretary Suga stated to the press that Japan would diplomatic channels to demand the return of the statues in accordance with international law. Just one day before South Korea’s Daejeon District Court issued a provisional ruling that the Kanzeon Bosatsu Zazo statue, from Tsushima’s Kannonji temple, should not be returned to Japan until a thorough investigation determines the temple acquired it in a lawful manner. Representatives from the Buseoksa Temple in Seosan, central South Korea, say the statue was originally made there in the 14th century.
Some in South Korea, especially in Buddhist circles, are accusing that Japan originally stole the statue long ago. Japanese government officials say they will appeal for the religious icon’s return based on the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. With this incident taking place at the same time as historical and territorial disputes between the two countries, it would be a shame if a religious artifact such as this got caught up in issues like the boycotting of Japanese goods among shop owners and required education of South Korea’s ownership of the Dokdo Islands.