Daejeon, South Korea, June 15 (Jiji Press)–The abbot of a Japanese temple appeared in a court in South Korea on Wednesday, appealing for the early return of a Buddhist statue stolen by a South Korean theft group in 2012.
At Daejeon High Court, the abbot, Setsuryo Tanaka, 46, claimed that the Buddhist statue belongs to the temple in Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture.
The statue, currently held by the South Korean government, is a cultural property designated by the southwestern Japan prefecture. The Japanese government has been demanding the return of the statue.
Meanwhile, a South Korean temple has filed a lawsuit against the South Korean government, claiming its ownership of the statue. The temple argues that it is highly likely that the statue was taken by Japanese pirates in the 14th century.
In January 2017, Daejeon District Court accepted the South Korean temple’s claim. The South Korean government has appealed the ruling to the high court.
On Wednesday, Tanaka stressed that the Japanese temple had owned the statue with clear intent since its becoming of a religious corporation in 1953, and that therefore acquisitive prescription must be acknowledged under both Japanese and South Korean civil codes.
The statue was “the spiritual center of temple parishioners,” Tanaka added.
He noted that the statue is said to have been legitimately acquired by the monk who established the Japanese temple in the 16th century, when the monk traveled to the Korean Peninsula.
In response, the South Korean temple questioned whether there is evidence that the acquisition was legitimate.