July 16, 2015 11:57
Korea will return an ancient Korean Buddha statue stolen from a Japanese temple to Japan.
The Supreme Public Prosecutors' Office said Wednesday the statue, which was stolen from the Kaijin Shrine in Nagasaki Prefecture in October 2012, will be sent back.
The statue dates to the Shilla period in the eighth century and was originally either looted during the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 1600s or given to Japan as a gift.
Japan designated it a national treasure in 1974.
The thieves were able to bring it to Korea because it was mistakenly appraised as a copy by customs officials.
The gang were arrested in 2013 after the Japanese government requested an investigation and the statue was recovered in a warehouse in southern Korea.
The prosecutors' office said there is no evidence that the statue was sent illegally to Japan, and nobody in Korea has claimed ownership. The National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, which has been holding the statue, plans to send it back on Thursday.
But another Buddha statue the gang stole from another Japanese temple will not be returned yet. It dates from the Koryo Kingdom in the 14th century and was designated a national treasure by Japan in 1973.
But sources here said it appears to have been looted from a Buddhist temple in South Chungcheong Province in 1330, and the temple took out an injunction to halt its return.
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