When running as root, tar will properly set the owner and
group of extracted directories and files. However, for
symlinks, it uses root.root. The chown and chgrp commands
do operate on the symlink, itself, and not its target, so
it is possible to set the ownership properly. The symlink
owner.group info *is* in the tar archive, so that's not the
linux versions prior to 2.1.86 didn't include the lchown syscall,
which allowed changing ownership of a symlink itself, instead of the
file it points to. While it may have looked like the ownership was
changed, the behaviour was undefined.
GNU tar doesn't handle symlink ownership well. however, it does
support lchown. In Red Hat Linux 6.0, which will ship with kernel
2.2.x, this means that ownership of symlinks is correctly handled.
for more information, please see tar's README file.