A Mission to Get ‘Stolen’ Art Back From US Museum.
12-15-2008. By Bae Ji-sook. Staff Reporter.
A Seoul Metropolitan Council member and Buddhist monks will fly to the United States to seek to retrieve a cultural art piece that was stolen during Japanese colonial rule of Korea (1910-1945).
Council member Boo Doo-wan, Ven. Hyemun, and Lee Sang-geun, secretary of the Buddhists Jogye Order, will visit the U.S. from Jan. 7 to 8 to ask the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to return a reliquary that contains relics of Buddha and other high ranking monks.
The 22.5 centimeter-high “Silver-plated Lamaist Stupa” has the shape of a Lamaist pagoda and is assumed to have been made during the Goryeo Kingdom (918-1392) and kept at Hoiam Temple until it was seized by Japanese colonial authorities in 1939. The Boston Museum has allegedly bought the piece from Japan.
The handcraft contains relics ― tiny ball-shaped crystalloids from the cremation of a monk’s dead body ― of Buddha and Vens. Jigong and Naong.
“We will visit Boston to see the item first and are considering filing a suit with a local court for its return,” Boo said. “We are also planning to visit the United Nations headquarters to talk to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and meet with South and North Korean delegates to ask for their support.”
Boo and Hyemun have been working for the return of other cultural assets that were “illegally” taken by the Japanese colonial authorities. They visited Japan in October to ask the Imperial Household Agency to return Joseon Uigwe, documents of administrative procedure, rituals and events of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910).
Boo also filed for the city council to adopt a resolution requesting the Japanese government return the items.
“The Uigwe shows what happened among Joseon royal families and how their rituals were performed, showing the lifestyle of the kingdom. It is very important that we get it back since it was taken by force,” he said.