Home > Asia Pacific > North Asia > S/N Korea > News & Issues

South and North Korean Buddhists to jointly press Japan to return artifacts

Yonhap News, March 27, 2007

SEOUL, South Korea -- South and North Korean Buddhists have agreed to cooperate to push for the repatriation of some royal Korean relics that Japan seized while colonizing the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th century.

A group of South Korean Buddhist leaders on Friday met their counterparts from the North's Korean Buddhist Federation at the Mount Geumgang resort, just north of the inter-Korean border, and signed an agreement to "make a joint effort for the return of our historic artifacts that have been taken away by Japan," according to a statement released here.

The archive, called "Uigwe" in Korean, is from the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910) and is now preserved at Japan's Imperial House in Tokyo. The U.N. cultural agency UNESCO is reviewing Uigwe and may register it as a World Heritage artifact. Copies of the originals are held in a Seoul library.

Uigwe contains records and pictures of marriages, funerals and other rituals and administrative records of the royal court of the Joseon Dynasty. There is no known archive similar to this elsewhere in the world, historians say.

The South Korean government alone cannot ask for the repatriation of historic artifacts from Japan, according to a 1965 treaty with Japan, said Rev. Hyemun, who led the inter-Korean meeting.

"Because North Korea hasn't yet signed a treaty with Japan in that matter, if North and South join hands we could possibly find an effective way to resolve it," he said.

North Korea also has historic artifacts that it wants to claim from Japan, including a rare Buddhist scripture from the Hwajang Temple in Kaesong, North Korea, that is now preserved in the Tokyo National Museum.

The monks on the South Korean side were from temples nationwide that have been commissioned to preserve the artifacts of the Joseon Dynasty. Their campaign led to the return of a UNESCO World Heritage item, Sillok (truthful records), from the University of Tokyo last year.

Rep. Kim Wong-woong, who leads a parliamentary committee on the repatriation of artifacts, said the two Koreas will deliver a letter to the Japanese court in the near future to resolve the dispute.

Web www.buddhistchannel.tv www.buddhistnews.tv


About BTN and BTN World

Korean Buddhist News from BTN (Korean Language)

BTN donate

bc logo

Please help keep the Buddhist Channel going


Point your feed reader to this location

      About The Channel   |   Disclaimer