According to a report in the June 8, 2011 edition of the Korea Joongang Daily, a Korean underwater excavation company has recovered 3.3 tons of foreign coins from a Japanese freighter that was sunk by an American warplane off the west coast of Korea during World War II.
The coins number about one million with most being Chinese coins made of silver and minted during the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Pyun Do-young, the owner of the Sea Love, Ltd. underwater excavation company, said that his divers found the old coins in rotting wooden boxes on the deck of what is believed to be the WWII Japanese freighter Nishima Maru No. 10.
While the coins are estimated to be worth about $4.6 million, the company is most interested in finding the 10 tons of gold bars the ship is believed to have been carrying.
Mr. Pyun said that near the end of the war some high-ranking Japanese government officials secretly shipped back to Japan stolen gold, cultural assets, jewelry and minerals from China and Southeast Asian countries.
The gold would be part of the so-called “Yamashita’s Treasure” which refers to war loot stolen by the Japanese forces under the command of General Tomoyuki Yamashita.
The gold would be worth about $480 million at today’s prices.
To find the gold bars, however, the divers must first remove the thick layers of mud covering the ship.
The coins are presently stored at the government’s Gunsan Regional Maritime Affairs and Port Office to allow a possible owner of the ship to claim possession. If no claim is made, the company will receive 80% of the coins with the remaining 20% going to the Korean government.