A South Korean minister has been pounded in his country as those from the Japanese media made reports that he is willing to have the stolen Buddha statues from Tsushima in Nagasaki Prefecture be returned to Japan. The artifacts have already been recovered and the thieves sent to prison, but the government of South Korea has refused to return the idols until Japan can prove that both items were legally acquired from the peninsula.
According to some Japanese media, Korean Culture Minister Yoo Jin-Ryong told his Japanese counterpart Hakubun Shimomura during a closed-door meeting, “While I am obliged to wait for the judiciary’s decision, I believe that they should naturally be returned if rational thought is given to the matter.” The meeting was held in Gwangju and was also attended by the culture minister of China.
The Buddha statues involved were the “Kanzeon Bosatsu Zazo” of Kannonji Temple and the “Dozo Nyorai Ryuzo” from Kaijin Shrine, both in Nagasaki Prefecture. In South Korea, the idols are called “Tathagata Buddha” and “Gwanseeum Bosal” (Goddess of Mercy). The Korean government claims that both were smuggled to Japan and will only be returned if the Japanese government can provide documents that the artifacts have been legally acquired. However, other civic groups demand that Japan return other Korean artifacts first before the two Buddha statues are surrendered to Japan. There are more than 66,000 artifacts in Japan claimed to have been smuggled from the Korean Peninsula.
To clarify his statement during the closed-door meeting, Minister Yoo claimed that he was only using his diplomatic position to relay the Korean government’s intent with regard to the stolen Buddha statues. “I said we should wait for the Korean judiciary’s decision and reaffirmed that we will follow the international treaty that holds that ‘any looted or stolen cultural assets should be repatriated.”
[via The Korea Herald]