Japan arrests Koreans for stealing a Buddha

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Japan arrests Koreans for stealing a Buddha

TOKYO - Four Korean men have been arrested in southern Japan on suspicion of stealing an ancient Buddha statue, police said Tuesday. The suspects were found Monday evening in possession of a copper Buddha statue that went missing from the Bairinji temple in Tsushima City in Nagasaki prefecture, said Keiichi Matsushita, deputy chief of the South Tsushima division of the Nagasaki police.

The statue, measuring about 10 centimeters (4 inches), was found in a paper bag carried by the suspects. The men were arrested at a harbor where ferries depart for Busan. They were also in possession of a number of Buddhist scriptures, Matsushita said. Of the four arrested, two admitted to the theft, while the others denied the allegation, he said.

Tsushima’s cultural heritage department said the stolen “Birth of Buddha” statue dates back to sometime between the 9th and 11th centuries.

Buddhist scriptures dating back to the 14th century were also missing from the temple, though police are investigating whether they are the same ones the suspects were carrying.

A similar case was reported in October 2012, when two statues and a set of scriptures were stolen from three temples in Tsushima. The statues were later found in Korea, while the scriptures remain missing.

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