A man from Fort Lee, N.J., is being held in a federal detention facility in connection with his purchase of a Korean relic which turned out to have been allegedly looted from the royal palace by an American soldier during the Korean War.
The New York Times reported that Won Young Youn, 54, paid a Michigan auction house $35,000 for the item, a plate that was used for printing currency in the time period just prior to Japanese occupation in 1910.
Youn is currently being held in a federal prison in Detroit and faces up to 20 years in jail on felony charges of possessing and transporting stolen goods.
The arrest came about as a result of a multiagency investigation that was aided by the South Korean government.
The arrest was also a result of Mr. Youn’s boasting. Though he received warnings, including one from the South Korean Embassy, that his purchase was illegal, he eagerly told Korean-language newspapers and radio and television stations of his acquisition.
The plate is perhaps the only survivor of a small number that were created in the 1890s, during a period of reform and the decline of the Korean monarchy, before the start of Japanese rule in 1910, according to Joshua Van Lieu, a professor of Korean history at LaGrange College in Georgia. Dr. Van Lieu, whose research on the plate’s significance was used in the investigation, added that given the plate’s rarity, “it would be priceless.”
The currency plate was part of a lot of items being sold for a Michigan woman named Kathy Vogt, who said she inherited them from a relative who had been a U.S. Marine during the Korean War.