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SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- A man in his 60s has been arrested for possession of ancient pottery apparently illegally taken from a submarine relics burial area off southwestern South Korea, police said Thursday.
The 63-year-old suspect, whose name was withheld, is accused of having hidden ancient Chinese celadon and other treasures retrieved in the 1980s from the Shinan underwater relics burial site in South Jeolla Province in violation of the Act on Protection and Inspection of Buried Cultural Heritage, police said.
The man is also suspected of having attempted to smuggle some of his treasures into Japan for sale, according to the Daejeon Metropolitan Police Agency.
Police detained the suspect on March 20 and seized 57 ceramic objects from his home in Seoul and other places.
The police and the Cultural Heritage Administration launched a joint investigation last February after obtaining intelligence that the suspect was trying to sell his stolen treasures in Japan.
Cultural property experts speculate that the ceramics seized from the suspect were mostly from the Shinan underwater relics burial site and are very valuable for research into ancient Chinese pottery made in the 1300s.
The underwater relics burial site in Shinan, about 400 kilometers south of Seoul, made headlines in the 1970s and 1980s after a local fisherman landed an unusual catch of ancient Chinese celadon in 1975.
Archaeologists launched an underwater salvage operation the following year and had discovered 22,000 pieces of artifacts by 1984, along with a wrecked Chinese trade vessel believed to have sunk in 1323.
Police have secured testimonies from the suspect's acquaintances that the man had concealed the ancient ceramics in his home since 1983 but have yet to confirm how he obtained the treasures.
The suspect reportedly insisted that he inherited the ceramics from his deceased mother.
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