Tuesday, November 26, 2013

South Korea says 16th century royal seal at LACMA may have been stolen

The Los Angeles Times has the story here:
South Korean government officials want the United States to investigate the circumstances surrounding a 16th century Korean royal seal that they believe was stolen out of a shrine in Seoul before being acquired by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Korean officials allege that the gilt bronze seal — which has been part of LACMA's collection since 2000 — is one of more than 40 such signets from the Joseon Dynasty that went missing after the end of the Korean War. The Korean government has long thought some of the missing artifacts were stolen by American soldiers and taken to the United States.

A federal law enforcement source said U.S. officials were looking into the Korean seal but would not provide details. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

In a statement, LACMA said there was "credible evidence" that its seal was "removed unlawfully from the National Shrine in Korea."
Beware, because these "stolen artifacts" stories often end up generating a lot of animosity toward the country where the possibly stolen artifacts are being kept.

France knows this all too well, but I don't feel much sympathy for them because their own soldiers took the stuff as an act of war to force open the Hermit Kingdom back in the 19th century.

At this point, I'm not going to assume guilt until I see hard evidence. There's looting and then there's rescuing, and it's entirely possible that these items were innocently obtained — even purchased — by GIs looking for a souvenir and not knowing it was something of serious value that would be missed.

At any rate, LACMA should take this seriously and look into it.

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