SEOUL: On Oct 26, South Korea’s highest court dismissed a local temple’s ownership claim over a statue that was allegedly looted by Japanese pirates in the 14th century.
This decision paves the way for Japan to seek the return of the artefact, which was stolen by South Korean thieves.
A 20-inch gilded bronze statue of a Buddhist Bodhisattva, stolen from a Japanese temple in 2012, was taken by South Korean thieves.
They were apprehended while attempting to sell it upon their return to South Korea.
In 2016, Buseoksa Temple in South Korea initiated a legal case to assert ownership of the statue, which had been in government custody. The temple claimed that Japanese pirates had looted it centuries ago.
However, South Korea’s Supreme Court, in February, upheld a lower court’s ruling, stating that the Seoul government, the defendant in the case, must return the statue to Japan, recognising Japan’s ownership.
South Korea’s foreign ministry has expressed respect for the top court’s decision. A ministry spokesperson mentioned that the procedures for returning the statue would be determined by the relevant agency in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.