Arts, Culture & Media

Missing Stradivarius Violin Found

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Korean Musician Min-Jin Kym (Photo: Min-Jin Kym website)

British police say they believe they have recovered a $1.84 million Stradivarius violin that was taken from acclaimed Korean musician Min-Jin Kym more than two years ago when she was in a sandwich shop near Euston Station in north London.

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A few years back, Min-Jin Kym stopped for a bite before catching a train to Manchester. She was travelling with a friend, and her precious 300-year-old violin made by Antonio Stradivari.

After Kym and her friend ordered sandwiches, she set the violin, in its black case, down at her feet.

Then, the two started checking their phones and laptops. And when Kym looked down, the black case was gone.

Kym, who was born in South Korea, has been playing since she was six.

She purchased the Stradivarius more than a decade ago.

There are only about 400 in the world.

This one's valued at around $2 million.

Kym says she quickly realized she'd lost much more than just her means of making a living.

"I mean, this is the instrument that I had been playing on since I was a teenager, so it was a huge part of my identity for very many years," Kym said in a video interview released by the British Transport Police.

When she realized the violin was gone, she called the police in a panic.

"I even remember saying to the officer who I spoke in the immediate aftermath of reporting the violin, 'Please tell me this is a nightmare. Tell me I'm going to wake up.' And he said, 'No, it's real, it's happening.'"

Luckily, closed circuit television in the sandwich shop caught the thief on tape.

In 2011, a 40-year-old man with a long criminal record, and two teenage accomplices, were charged with the theft.

The three had tried to sell the Stradivarius to a guy at an Internet cafe for around $200. Court records say the guy turned the thieves down because "his daughter already had a recorder."

Police had been working ever since the convictions to get the final, crucial detail.

Where was the violin?

No one quite knew. Or if they did, they weren't telling.

Police stayed on the case, and Min-Jin Kym tried to get on with her life.

"Obviously it was devastating," Kym said. "But in many respects, life is so unpredictable, and you just have to find the best way to move forward."

British authorities thought they'd caught a break earlier this year.

A Stradivarius believed to be Kym's was found in Bulgaria. But it turned out to be a fake.

Today, however, British Transport Police say they're pretty sure they've found Kym's violin.

Last week, they found a Stradivarius—along with two bows worth more than $100,000 in their own right—somewhere in central England.

Details are, clearly, scarce.

But police did say the violin they found had only minor damage.

Chief Constable Andy Trotter says the police then contacted Kym with the good news.

"When we told her that we'd got it back, she was dancing around the room—in her own words—and was very, very happy indeed," Trotter told the BBC. "These are so rare and there's not only a financial attachment, there's obviously a great emotional attachment to instruments of this nature and value and I think everybody is very, very happy indeed."

Kym says she is over the moon about the news.

Experts are still assessing the instrument. They want to make sure it's the missing Stradivarius.

Meanwhile, the British Transport Police reminded travelers to be sure to keep a close eye on their possessions while at train stations.

Sound advice.

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