SEOUL--Five South Korean men have been arrested on suspicion of stealing and smuggling two treasured Buddhist statues from Japan, police said Jan. 29.
The statues, both from Tsushima, Nagasaki Prefecture, have been confiscated and are being held by the Cultural Heritage Administration of South Korea.
Officials at the Daejeon Metropolitan Police Agency said eight or so individuals were likely involved in the crime ring responsible for the theft and smuggling.
Three of the men are suspected of stealing a bronze standing statue of Tathagata Buddha, designated an important cultural property by the Japanese government, from Kaijinjinja shrine, and a seated statue of the Kanzeon Bodhisattva, designated a tangible cultural property by Nagasaki Prefecture, from Kannonji temple in October.
Both the shrine and the temple are located on Tsushima island, which lies in the straits between the Japanese mainland and the Korean Peninsula.
The suspects smuggled the two statues by sea from Fukuoka to Busan and were seeking to sell them at high prices, police officials said.
The Cultural Heritage Administration of South Korea plans to invite relevant officials from Japan to authenticate the artworks shortly, after which they will be returned at the request of Japanese officials, sources said.
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