Japan-based collector asks $13M for Korean Buddhist artifact

An ancient Korean gilt-bronze statue of the Bodhisattva (not pictured) in a private Japanese collection has been the focus of potential South Korean government acquisitions. File Photo courtesy of National Museum of Korea

Oct. 16 (UPI) — A masterpiece of Korean Buddhist sculpture dating back to antiquity and held in a private Japanese collection comes with a hefty price tag of $13 million, a South Korean government official said Tuesday.

The gilt-bronze statue of the Bodhisattva, excavated from the Korean Peninsula and sent to Japan more than 90 years ago, exceeds the maximum price of $3.7 million set by the Korean government, Yonhap reported.

Seoul was pursuing the acquisition of the artifact, but according to Chung Jae-suk, head of Seoul’s Cultural Heritage Administration, even paying the highest state-sanctioned price would be “excessive,” according to the report.

During a parliamentary audit Tuesday, Chung said the unidentified collector in Japan was “setting the price too high,” local newspaper Hankyoreh reported.

She said the statue was likely excavated from Gyuam-ri, Buyeo county in South Chungcheong Province. Negotiations with the potential seller broke down following appraisals from experts, Chung said.

The statue’s proprietor did say the artifact could be put up for auction.

Chung said the Korean government had been contacting the proprietor through a “broker” but in future negotiations could reach out to the potential seller directly.

The statue stands about 11 inches high and dates back to 7th century A.D., when three kingdoms were competing for influence on the peninsula.

The statue is the product of artists from the Baekje Kingdom, widely believed to have spread Buddhist thought and culture to ancient Japan.

More than a thousand artifacts of Korean origin, taken from the peninsula during Japanese occupation, are still held in either Japanese public or private collections, according to the Hankyoreh.


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