Supreme Court Rules 14th-Century Korean Buddhist Statue Should Be Returned to Japan

SEOUL - The Supreme Court ruled that a 14th-century Korean Buddhist statue, taken to Japan but later stolen and returned to Korea, should be returned to Japan.

According to a new release by the Yonhap News Agency, the decision upholds a previous ruling from a lower court and centers around a 50.5-centimeter-tall statue from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).

Buseok Temple in Seosan had filed a lawsuit in 2016 demanding the return of the statue, which is currently stored at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage in Daejeon. The temple claimed that Japanese pirates had originally stolen the statue.

The case had seen varied rulings in the past. Initially, a district court ordered the statue to be returned to Buseok Temple, but an appeals court later overturned this decision. The Supreme Court has now upheld the appellate decision, stating that under Japanese civil code, anyone who has held another person's object peacefully and publicly for 20 years gains entitlement to ownership.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Lim Soo-suk said the government respects the top court's decision. "We understand the ownership of the statue has been finalized in accordance with the Supreme Court's ruling. We believe that related government agencies will take the necessary legal steps required for its return," Lim said in a press briefing.

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