Korea returns smuggled dinosaur fossils to Mongolia
The Mongolian government said it would lend the fossils to Korea and the cultural property authorities of the two governments would conduct research on them and display them here.
Among the fossils are a skull and rib bones of the carnivore Tarbosaurus, which inhabited Asia 70 million years ago. Tarbosaurus fossils have only been found in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. The academic value of the pieces is highly notable, a researcher at the National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage said.
The fossils were dug up from the Gobi Desert by Mongolians and smuggled into China, with smugglers deceiving immigration bureau authorities by putting the bones in multiple boxes and claiming they were Mongolian tents.
The fossils were brought to Korea in May 2014, after a Korean smuggler purchased them for 467 million won ($411,000). However, a disagreement over the rights to the fossils broke out in February 2015 among smugglers here and they filed complaints against each other with the prosecution.
The prosecution confiscated the fossils and conducted an inspection with Mongolian investigation authorities and cultural heritage experts.
Because the earth on the bones showed they were from the Gobi Desert, the prosecution decided to return them to Mongolia.
It is the first time for Korea to return illegally acquired cultural property to the government of another nation.