The two Buddhist statues stolen from Japanese temples and found in South Korea may not be returned to Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture. The Jogye Order, the biggest Buddhist sect in South Korea, is calling on the government to investigate first how the statue came into Japan’s possession in the first place.
The “Kanzeon Bosatsu Zazo” which belongs to the Kannonji Temple was designated a cultural property by the Nagasaki Prefectural Government. A document dated 1330 (Goryeo Dynasty) was discovered inside the statue and included the name of a temple in Korea. The other statue is called “Dozo Nyorai Ryuzo”and was stolen from the Kaijin Shrine also in Tsushima. The statues were eventually recovered and last January 29, the South Korean police said they were detaining a member of a theft ring. The Jogye Order believe that the statue is of Korean origin and should be thoroughly investigated first before deciding to return it or not to Tsushima.
The Chosun Ilbo newspaper published the contradicting opinions of academics on this matter. One said the statues may have been plundered by the “wako” or medieval Japanese pirates. Another said that the statues were probably part of the bilateral trade between the two countries at that time, meaning it could have been sold or donated to Japan.