The Korean Cultural Heritage Administration has decided to give up on pursuing an art piece from the Baekje period - The Baekje Bronze Bodhisattva Statue, also known as the "Baekje's Smiling Bodhisattva."
Japan confiscated the Baekje's Smiling Bodhisattva in 1907. The Cultural Heritage Administration has attempted to recollect the piece; however, the process of recovery was reportedly canceled due to the Japanese owner's demand for an excessive price.
According to reports received by Lee Byung Hoon, the member of the National Assembly's Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, along with the Democratic party, the Cultural Heritage Administration suspended the process of recovering Baekje's Smiling Bodhisattva.
Baekje's Smiling Bodhisattva was discovered in Buyeo County in 1907 and consists of two pieces in total. One of the pieces has been declared as National Treasure no. 293 and is currently owned by the Buyeo National Museum. The other piece was confiscated by the Japanese military police and taken to Japan.
Later, a Japanese collector name Ichida Jiro reportedly bought the piece at auction. Experts claim that the Baekje's Smiling Bodhisattva that was confiscated and taken to Japan is more artistic than the National Treasure no. 293, which remains in Korea.
The National Museum of Korea and the Cultural Heritage Administration offered 4.2 billion KRW (~3,656,116 USD) to recover the Baekje's Smiling Bodhisattva in Japan. However, the Japanese collector reportedly wanted 15 billion KRW (~13,057,558 USD).
The Cultural Heritage Administration maintains that it cannot offer more than 4.2 billion KRW, which is the appraised value, during the negotiations for the recovery. Therefore, the process of recovering the art piece has been suspended.
Representative Lee Byun Hoon stated, "Choongna has set aside 1 billion KRW this year through the enactment of an ordinance to support the recovery of cultural assets overseas such as 'Baekje's Smiling Bodhisattva,' and plans to raise 6 billion KRW over the next three years. Buyeo County will also raise 3.8 billion KRW through public donations."
He added, "The Cultural Heritage Administration and the National Museum must become proactive so that many of our cultural assets outside the country can return to their homeland."
The National Assembly Foundation for Cultural Heritage announced on April 1 that there were 193,134 Korean cultural assets in 21 countries. By country, Japan has 81,889 pieces (42.40%), the U.S. 53,141 pieces (27.52%), China 12,984 pieces (6.72%), and Germany 12,113 pieces (6.27%).