After a 10-year legal battle, an ancient Buddhist statue may be returned to a Japanese temple


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A high court in South Korea ordered that a Buddhist statue, which was taken from a temple in Japan during 2012, be returned to it.

This statue depicts the Kanzeon Bodhisattva, which dates back more than 450 centuries. Kanzeon, also known in Buddhist culture as the One Who Sees the Sounds of the World, is believed to “grant salvation” to the sufferer.

According to the Asahi Shimbun, the bodhisattva sculpture has been the focal point of international tug-of war since its appearance in South Korea.

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The South Korean government detained the thieves who stole the statue from Tsushima’s Kannonji temple, Nagasaki Prefecture in 2013. The South Korean government took the statue. The statue was then confiscated by the South Korean government. Shortly thereafter, the Kannonji temple with the support from the Japanese government requested the statue’s return.

Buseoksa Temple in South Korea claimed that the statue belonged to it and asked for ownership. According to the temple, the Kanzeon Bodhisattva is believed to have been stolen by “Wako”, a group Japanese pirates who sailed along the Chinese and Korean coasts between 1200 and 1500 CE.

A South Korean district court ruled for the Buseoksa Temple in 2017. It stated that “it is reasonable” to assume the statue arrived in Japan via “theft and theft.” The South Korean government appealed, but only partially.

The Daejeon High Court ruled that the statue was likely to have been stolen from Buseoksa temple. However, the court rejected ownership of the temple because it is not clear that Buseoksa’s current status is the same one that was active in 14 century.

The Kannonji temple was able to “acquisitive prescribe” the statue by holding it for more than 20 years. This is the time required to acquire ownership under civil laws in Japan and South Korea.

Setsuryo Tanaka is the current chief priest at Kannonji Temple. He told the South Korean court last January that the statue was given to him by the Buddhist monk who built Kannonji Temple in 1526.

The court also ruled in favor of the Kanzeon Bodhisattva being returned to Japan, “while taking into consideration principles of international law,” according to the Asahi Schimbun. Buseoksa plans on appealing to a higher court.

Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams
Alexandra Williams is a writer and editor. Angeles. She writes about politics, art, and culture for LinkDaddy News.

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