Sending back statues to Japan
South Korean Culture Minister  Yoo  Jin-ryong  has  rekindled  controversy  over  the  issue  of  two   ancient   Korean   Buddhist  statues  stolen  from  Japan  last  year  with  his  recent  remarks  endorsing their return to Japanese owners.
He reportedly said during a meeting with his Japanese counterpart last week that the Korean government would make due efforts to ensure the statues would be sent back to Japan. Yoo was quoted by a Japanese daily as reiterating the position on the following day.
A  year  ago,  a  Korean crime  ring  stole  the  statues  from  a  Shinto  shrine  and a Buddhist  temple  on  the  western  Japanese  island  of  Tsushima  and smuggled  them  here  in  a  botched   attempt   to   sell   them  to  local private collectors.
A Korean court earlier approved an injunction request filed by a temple in Korea to ban the return of one of the retrieved statues, which is presumed to have been taken from it by Japanese pirates in the 14h century.
 The other ~ there has been no clue as to how it was taken to Japan ~ has been under custody of the Cultural Heritage Administration of Korea pending a final decision on whether to send it back.
Some critics here have accused the minister of making “reckless” remarks, saying he should have watched his mouth.
But our view is that he struck a proper note when asked by the Japanese official and media about the Korean government&’s stance on the issue.
Giving an answer negative to returning the statues would have run against legal sense and international norms.
It is right to return both of the statues to their Japanese owners who had cherished them for centuries until they were stolen.
Their  return  would  help  provide  a  new  momentum  for  efforts  to  retrieve  other  Korean  cultural  assets  plundered  by  Japan,  especially  during its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The Korea Herald