I’m glad an artifact may be returned (HT to somebody), but this seems a bit much:
The video says it shows a man named Won Young Youn, in a dark polo shirt, sitting casually at a table in Flushing, Queens. In his left hand he holds a recent purchase from an online auction, a small metal tablet that, he explains, is a plate that was used for printing currency in Korea during the tumultuous period before that country became a colony of imperial Japan.
Now, Mr. Youn is in a federal detention center in Detroit, where he was taken after his arrest this month on charges of possessing and transporting stolen goods, felonies that each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Federal prison? Seriously?
BTW, bragging in the media—in Korean, no less—might not have been the smartest thing to do:
The arrest was also a result of Mr. Youn’s boasting. Though he received warnings, including one from the South Korean Embassy, that his purchase was illegal, he eagerly told Korean-language newspapers and radio and television stations of his acquisition.
The plate had been stolen by a US Marine from Deoksugung Palace during the Korean War. In the media, Youn apparently presented himself as “a sort of Indiana Jones figure, saving Korean artifacts from obscurity in the United States.”
A modern-day Jeon Hyeong-pil, he is.
Anyway, the artifact is likely to be returned to Korea, even if the outcome is not optimal in the opinion of one Korean embassy official:
The situation was not what Mr. Lee, the embassy official, had hoped for. “The goal is not for a person of Korean origin to be convicted,” he said. “The goal is to retake a precious cultural asset.”
I’ll let you ponder what that means.
Meanwhile in Korea, a mistake by customs officials in Busan has allowed smugglers to disappear with two Korean Buddhist statues stolen from a Shinto shrine in Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan.
The two statues, which date from the Silla and Goryeo eras, are considered “National Treasure”-level artifacts. The thieves stole the artifacts from the shrine and took a ferry back to Busan the same day. When they got to Busan, officials examines the artifacts, but judged them to be fakes.
Two months later, the Japanese government reported to the Korean government that the artifacts had been stolen and asked Korean authorities to investigate. The police and Cultural Heritage Administration belatedly learned of the screw-up at Busan customs and tried to track down the thieves, but they were long gone.
Now, one is tempted to say, well, those artifacts were probably looted from Korea anyway, so no harm, no foul. Nine out of ten times you might be right, but not in this case, apparently—from what I can find on the Net, it appears the statues were sent to Japan in ancient times when Korea and this part of Japan shared brisk cultural exchanges.
Considering that one of the statues was worth 100 million yen, I’m guessing they’re sitting in some jaebeol type’s private art collection somewhere now.