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Former reporter traces how famous Ainu portraits wound up in France


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The artworks that were smuggled overseas must be returned to Japan. Famous museums in Europe display shamelessly stolen artworks from other countries.

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I think there is a need to return paintings that were Jewish property and items that were clearly stolen.

However, Egypt is also demanding the return of items such as the Rosetta Stone acquired in the transaction, and responses vary depending on the country.

The worst example is South Korea. below

When a South Korean court ruled in January 2017 that cultural properties stolen by a group of South Korean thieves from Kannon Temple in Tsushima City, Nagasaki Prefecture, Japan in 2012 did not have to be returned to Japan, the Japanese government "Failure to return clearly stolen goods is a violation of international law." Since this ruling, not only Japan but also museums and art galleries around the world have become negative and refused to lend cultural properties to South Korea for fear that they would not be returned.

Despite signing international treaties, South Korea did not return stolen cultural property.

Furthermore, in order to protect the ownership of cultural property in other countries, the United States, Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada, Taiwan, Greece, and other countries have joined international treaties stipulating the ''prevention of seizure of cultural property.'' Professor Song Bong-geun of South Korea's Seikyo University said, ''The seizure exemption law is essential to guarantee the people's right to enjoy culture,'' and ''It is a serious problem that South Korea is the only country that is delaying the enactment of the law, contrary to global trends.'' ”, calling for the protection of ownership of cultural properties of other countries.

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There is no proof of those paintings being stolen, as no Japanese had asked for those paintings. Hence no reason to have them back, outside a private potential transaction.

It seems historically of great importance and I hope some ways to show those paintings would be implemented for all.

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Please read the article. The most plausible explanation is that the paintings were not smuggled but legal possession of French.


Perhaps you should tell the whole story instead of what just suit your narrative. The lower court ruling in the favor of the first owner of the artwork : Buseoksa temple which put a claim that it was stolen by japanese pirates. That ruling was then overturned by the higher court in 2023. The issue is still in legal proccess.


I clearly 'doubt'* your statement that art increasingly is not being loaned to South Korea, since some loaned art is/was stuck in several countries including South Korea because of covid or war, and international museum sign partnership there :




* to stay polite

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depicting 12 chieftains who helped Japanese forces suppress Ainu uprisings

I expect that many in the Ainu community prefer that images of the traitors remain far away from their shores.

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This is my personal assumption, not necessarily related with the topic of the article: Allow me to post it just FYI. 

There were many nomadic peoples in the prehistoric Asian continent, crisscrossing the continent from south to north, and from west to east. Some came to the Japanese archipelago by dugout canoe from the south and from the north. From the north a tribe known today as Ainu came; and from the south people with Polynesian traits came. These original settlers on the archipelago lived in harmony for many centuries, forming a culture known today as the Jomon culture.

Then came to Kyushu from the continent the Yayoi tribe in hordes via Korean Peninsula, wave after wave. The mainstream of them migrated further to the heart of Japan and the bifurcated smaller group went southwest, capturing island by island. 

Their advance stopped short of Taiwan, that is, on Yonaguni Island. There is a clear-cut linguistic demarcation between indigenous languages spoken on Taiwan and those spoken on Yonaguni and beyond northeastward, which is basically Japanese.

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The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Convention against the Illegal Export and Import of Cultural Property provides for the return of stolen cultural property in principle.

''South Korea is a country that has ratified the treaty.''

It is out of order for the South Korean government to bring the matter to court even though it has ratified the treaty.

If a Korean temple claims to be the owner, the natural thing to do would be to return it to Japan and then dispute ownership.

Because Korea cannot do that, it is called OINK, only in Korea.

As a result, during a special exhibition held at South Korea's National Museum in December 2018, requests from not only Japan but also France refused to lend the artworks.


If you examine the genes of the Ainu people, some people will find genes of the Russian Tungus people from the north. The current theory in Japan is that the Jomon people were invaded and conquered by the Russian Tungus people, and this is the origin of the current Ainu people. It is still unclear which is correct.

It is unknown where the ancestors of the Japanese people came from, but I am also curious about where the ancestors of the Ainu came from.

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Strange, but what does Japan have to do with it? These paintings do not belong to the Japanese government or the Japanese people, they belong to the Ainu. Now we, the Ainu, are working with Russia so that it would give us back our native lands - the Southern Kuril Islands, the Northern Territories. Having regained our homeland, we will begin to regain other national property.


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