The statue symbolizes the sex slaves forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels during World War II. Photo: AFP
politics

Aichi exhibition closed over Korean 'comfort woman' statue reopens

38 Comments

A Japanese exhibition of censored art works reopened Tuesday two months after it was forced to close following threats over a controversial South Korean statue of a wartime sex slave.

The Aichi Triennale 2019 show, featuring the statue of a girl in traditional Korean clothes sitting on a chair, was shut down in early August just three days after it opened.

The exhibition, titled "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" reopened -- with the controversial figure on display -- after new safety measures were put in place, with guides and educational programs also offered to visitors, organizers said.

The exhibition was dedicated to showing works that were censored elsewhere and was originally scheduled to run for 75 days.

But it sparked controversy with the inclusion of the statue, at a time when relations between Japan and South Korea have plunged to new lows over wartime issues.

The central government has pulled subsidies for the exhibition, claiming Aichi Prefecture failed to provide full information in advance.

The reopening comes with less than a week remaining of the art festival.

"It is very regrettable that displays of some artists' works are cancelled. I want to complete this Aichi Triennale, one of the biggest art festivals in Japan, in an amicable way," Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura said late Monday.

The girl's statue symbolizes the sex slaves -- sometimes referred to as "comfort women" -- who were forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels during World War II.

Omura, who heads the organizers, said in August they received a number of threatening emails, phone calls, and faxes about the exhibition.

Mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women -- mostly from Korea, but also other parts of Asia including China -- were forced to work in Japanese military brothels.

Activists have in recent years set up dozens of statues in public venues around the world, many of them in South Korea, in honor of the victims.

The statues have drawn Tokyo's ire, which has pressed for the removal of one outside its Seoul embassy.

In recent months, bilateral relations between Japan and South Korea have frayed over a long-running dispute on the use of forced labour during World War II.

The two sides have rescinded each other's favored export partner statuses, and Seoul announced it would scrap an agreement to share sensitive military information.

© 2019 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

38 Comments

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Good for the mayor and the exhibition.

As always, such examples refute the notion that all Japanese are eager to whitewash and hide their history. Nothing could be further from the truth.

-1 ( +18 / -19 )

So only about one week left. Still censorship of an exhibit selected by the exhibition.

0 ( +14 / -14 )

Again,.. why is there only comfort woman photo up there?

So that readers get impression that that is what this is all about?

IT IS NOT.

These are problematic exhibits people are talking about.

I wanted to write URL as reference for viewers, but if I do, JapanToday deletes my post, so I will leave only keywords.

 

1)  The movie of burning Showa emperor and scull photos with gas burner and stepping on its ash.

2)   A strange cave looking object titled “Grave of Stupid Japanese” with messages like “Japan is sick” and Japanese flag with Kamikaze, Tokkoutai,特攻隊,messages on top.

This is a disgrace of those who died for the country. Please learn how second sons decided to fly to enemy ships with one-way fuel.

 

3)   The photo of the current royal family, but their figures are perished and only their shadows remains.

Artist who made this was initially making photos of Showa emperor with his figure gone by modifying it. But this time, the target becomes entire family.

I found this very dangerous sending a wrong message such as assassination threat.

 

The government decided not to give 70 million yen funding.

Now left wing gets angry and claims that this is the censorship like what Nazi regime did back then.

 

I think this is crazy. No one bans these exhibits, but only they thinks this is not appropriate to do this with tax payers money.

4 ( +23 / -19 )

hachikou: The exhibition is about freedom of expression. You may not like the contents, but it's important that they can be displayed without giving in to threats from fascists.

As for the use of taxes: there are plenty of things I don't like my taxes being spent on (e.g. "commercial" whaling). Perhaps you should vote for a party that will spend taxes in the way you want?

2 ( +22 / -20 )

@Scrote: the fact is that in our modern age, it's not clear what freedom of speech is anymore. If you apply some standards that you see in other situations, the names "Japan is sick" or " Grave of stupid Japanese" could sound like hate speech against Japanese people. You could change that perception with small details, for example including words like "Imperial Japan is sick" or "Grave of Japanese soldiers killed by stupid Japanese Imperial regime indoctrination". When something can be called hate speech and when it's freedom of speech? There are too many double standards today, that makes you ask if there is a part of people who are simply "more free" than others. Also in the West, I see this double standard all the time between people who support mass immigration and people who are against it, without being racist only for this opinion, based on facts that have nothing to do with "race".

4 ( +16 / -12 )

Good for the mayor and the exhibition.

@old man - the same mayor who said just recently?

"Kawamura previously incited controversy when he demanded the exhibition be shut, arguing the statue should not be displayed at a publicly funded event as its presence could give the wrong impression that Japan accepted South Korea's claim the women were forcibly taken by the Japanese military."

As always, such examples refute the notion that all Japanese are eager to whitewash and hide their history. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It's been pointed out before and more than once, that nobody claims this except yourself. You claim it so you can then refute it.

-3 ( +13 / -16 )

As always, such examples refute the notion that all Japanese are eager to whitewash and hide their history. Nothing could be further from the truth

Nobody has ever claimed that all Jaoanese are eager to whitewash and hide their history. You're living up to your handle and arguing with yourself again.

0 ( +16 / -16 )

Again,.. why is there only comfort woman photo up there?

Because the article is about this exhibit, not the other ones you mentioned.

-1 ( +15 / -16 )

@Chip Star: all those "pieces of arts" are part of the same exhibit. I found annoying how mainstream media speak only about the comfort women statue, when I saw most Japanese people on Twitter being angry for the other pieces of arts. And I saw this stuff because there was an Italian artist who supported on Twitter this exhibition, and I was sorry for her attitude. Many Japanese were trying to explain their reasons to her in English, but she ignored every explaination related to those controversial piece of arts whose Hachikou spoke, by replying only with the hashtag "miserable Japanese men". She is a feminist activist but I found her attitude very wrong and closed to any exchange of opinions.

3 ( +18 / -15 )

Alex: The exhibitbeas shut down over threats related to the comfort women display. This article is about that. I'm sorry I can't change reality to make people happy.

1 ( +15 / -14 )

@Chip Star: but don't you think also the other people like Hachikou should be represented in mainstream media? I start to doubt about what they tell us.

-1 ( +12 / -13 )

@Chip Star: such a pity media often change reality all the time. You can never know the real reasons for something. The only thing I noticed is that these articles NEVER speak about the other controversial pieces of art, despite I saw TONS of Japanese on Twitter protesting about those, and saying that media were using the statue like an excuse to make the international audience think the main problem was that. So I don't know what to believe anymore, sorry.

1 ( +14 / -13 )

Freedom of expression is such beautiful thing to behold. Especially when it irks the right wingers. More,more, more of the same!!!

-2 ( +15 / -17 )

@Wallace: who are the right wingers? Also the ones who simply feel uncomfortable about "the sick Japan" piece of art? It was part of the same exhibit. How can you be really sure about what media tell us? Was the statue really the main problem? Sorry, again, I don't know what to believe anymore. I keep my doubts, how I keep my doubts about so many other facts described in mass media. Despite the sad situation of freedom of speech in Western democracies in this age, I feel I can be relatively free at least if I can keep my doubts.

-1 ( +12 / -13 )

Video link on the exhibit

https://youtu.be/3wTE0Iy5blk

2 ( +9 / -7 )

oldman, I think you mean the Aichi Governor. The Nagoya Mayor is a Nipponkaigi right wing loon.

From the story:

"It is very regrettable that displays of some artists' works are cancelled. I want to complete this Aichi Triennale, one of the biggest art festivals in Japan, in an amicable way," Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura said late Monday.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

A political statement pure and simple, heck, art sake arts sake it still an abomination.

-1 ( +8 / -9 )

sorry ment art for art's sake....

1 ( +8 / -7 )

don't you think also the other people like Hachikou should be represented in mainstream media? I start to doubt about what they tell us

I haven't seen the exhibits that Hachikou is referring to or who the artists in question are and where these exhibits are or were on display, or any of the context. So I really don't feel that it is particularly relevant to this discussion. If there were a clear case of double standards being exercised, that might be relevant, but I am not sure that there is enough evidence from what Hachikou said to conclude that.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Art?

2 ( +10 / -8 )

This is a disgrace of those who died for the country. Please learn how second sons decided to fly to enemy ships with one-way fuel.

The disgrace was the Admirals who thought it was acceptable to strong-arm young men into becoming suicide bombers into carrying on an absurd war that they could never win. The kamikaze pilots were nothing more than the victims of war criminals.

3)   The photo of the current royal family, but their figures are perished and only their shadows remains.

Artist who made this was initially making photos of Showa emperor with his figure gone by modifying it. But this time, the target becomes entire family.

I found this very dangerous sending a wrong message such as assassination threat.

I haven't seen the picture, and am not entirely sure what you mean, but I find it hard to extrapolate from the description that they would become an assassination target. This may well be a political comment on the role of the royal family in Japanese life.

No one bans these exhibits, but only they thinks this is not appropriate to do this with tax payers money.

That is clearly untrue - people specifically objected to the statue of the comfort woman - just as they do wherever comfort women are memorialized.

15 ( +18 / -3 )

This exhibit is only a small part of the greater part of almost 100 years of Japanese Imperialism many, including nationals consider it to have climaxed into a very dark part of the country's history.

I have not said I support the exhibit but I do support the right of Aichi Triennale selection committee to select what it wanted to exhibit. Any level of government censorship is unwelcome.

There can be many arguments about this exhibit whether its art or not.

Freedom of Expression when the country a few years ago introduced its own laws and censorship about what the press/media can print or report on. Including the full story of the likes of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Civil servants can be prosecuted for revealing or whistleblowing.

The freedom of the press puts Japan at about No 44.

The exhibit was only allowed to reopen with some strict conditions. Limited to 30 viewers at one time, advanced ticket sales, details of the court case given to every visitor. Closes in about 7 days.

But it will roll on well after that.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

Proof that Japan is a free, very tolerant and democratic nation. They allow even controversial exhibitions that many disagree with. Try holding such controversial exhibitions in neighboring nations. Impossible.

Good for Japan.

8 ( +19 / -11 )

Good! Let people go if they choose to learn a little bit, or at least see a different perspective on history and judge for themselves. Let the rest go back to the holes in the sand or back up others' backsides and hide from the truth (some posters on here included).

Ganbare Japan: "Proof that Japan is a free, very tolerant and democratic nation."

And yet, you wanted it shut down. What does that say about you?

-7 ( +11 / -18 )

A girl seated in a chair, heck that's 'art' well fair enough but why the tax payer subsidy?

3 ( +11 / -8 )

itsonlyrocknroll

A girl seated in a chair, heck that's 'art' well fair enough but why the tax payer subsidy?

So the two square meters of buildings bricks in the Tate Gallery are art. The government art grant is for the whole of the Aichi Triennale and this exhibit is just one of many in it. Largest exhibition held in Japan.

-1 ( +6 / -7 )

zichi I am the last person to ask about what constitutes as art. My humble opinion is this exhibit is more a political statement, that doesn't mean it should be withdrawn though

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Proof that Japan is a free, very tolerant and democratic nation. They allow even controversial exhibitions that many disagree with. Try holding such controversial exhibitions in neighboring nations. Impossible.

You make it sound like allowing a controversial exhibit is as though Japan has gone above and beyond expectations of free speech.

This is just a very basic requirement of free speech. The fact that you think that this is in someway impressive shows that there concept of free speech is just skin deep in Japan.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Too many Japanese people get overly sensitive about tnhe country's imperial past. If you don't acknowledge what happened and denounce it, you're tacitly agreeing with it. It's not even a 'finished' historical event, there are two Koreas for a reason. Of course, the same goes with European imperialism, but Europe at least acknowledges the damage of it's legacy and tries to do some things to help. Japan just throws a tantrum, it's so embarrassing to watch

-3 ( +8 / -11 )

Freedom of whatever contradicts each other. What could possibly judge freedom of expression weighs more than freedom of opinion/thought which criticize it on the occasion like this?

Well. there's no point saying this where all those not allowed.

but just one piece of info. Those american posters who love and be proud of your country should do take a look at the exhibit called Grave of Stupid Japanese which stands on the Stars and Stripes laid out, and what this artist meant by it.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

It's not even a 'finished' historical event, there are two Koreas for a reason.

I’m sorry, what does this have anything to do with Japan? Oh that’s right, every single problem in Korea are all Japan’s faults, no questions asked.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

The only way this sorry debacle, art,? pull the other one, it plays the banjo, is through education not silly girls sitting in a chair masquerading as art!

The reality its another shameless attempt to blithely, cynically force pugnacious derogatory contempt to a people that have embraced peaceful coexistence with there neighbours.

I do not deny that there are hard boiled right wingers in Abe sans cabinet that are given an undue media platform. However that harpy in a chair is the essence of political posturing, no more no less. Sorry to be so blunt.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Whose firing and testing the missiles, who is developing the next generation of nuclear warheads?,

In comparison Japan's SDF have nothing more than peashooters.

Here we have a exhibit that has been designed to humiliate, hiding under cover of the so called right to freedom of speech/expression. Whilst President Moon Jae-in hugs a murderous dictator.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

itsonlyrocknroll

zichi I am the last person to ask about what constitutes as art. My humble opinion is this exhibit is more a political statement, that doesn't mean it should be withdrawn though

This is the 19th Triennale so they have been the job for nearly 60 years. This is the first time I have known about something controversial has this exhibit.

Whatever the exhibit is it was the choice of the Triannale and that is right and they should not be manipulated by the government.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Zichi, I have little or no problem with the exhibit itself, the subject matter, politically needs to be addressed smartly.

In other words a more formal approach beyond the world of politics. Addressing historic grievances, needs a royal commission that can rise above politics. Well that is my take on the matter.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

itsonlyrocknroll.

With all international exhibitions of this year usually release a theme and then request submissions. We don't know why they accepted and on that point never really understood how they arrive at their submissions acceptance.

This exhibit is as much art as many more famous one like 2 square meters of bricks, in the Tate Gallery. Tracy Allman's bed and Damien Hirst and his sharks and sheep.

Certainly, the theme of freedom of expression spotlighted the lack of it.

I doubt the case of the Korean CW will be resolved any time soon.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

to a people that have embraced peaceful coexistence with there neighbours.

Sounds like you have Japan confused with Germany. This is like two kids in the back seat with the bad one hitting the other. When told to stop and apologize, the bad kid stops, lies about what happened and says sorry in the most unsorry tone possible. Then proceeds to glare and make rude gestures. Its not really convincing that the bad kid is not going to start again.

Germany on the other hand is still saying sorry to this day and its completely sincere.

Until Japan enmasse stops downplaying, obfuscating and denying the sex slave issue and other issues relating to the war, Japan is going have neighbors hostile to her, because Japan is trolling the world on this.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

https://twitter.com/yamatokairagi/status/1182141079987965953/photo/1

This is one of other exhibits reminding visitors of haircurling brutal crimes in 1988 , where a high school girl was kidnapped, confined, raped, assaulted for a month and put into a drum can with concrete、coagulated,

and dumped into Tokyo Bay.

And promoters concerned, a director Tsuda who's not even an artist but a mere journalist are demanding bloody-taxpayer's public funding as these are ART for the sake of FREEDOM of EXPRESSION

FYI, Ohmura, a govenor of Aichi Prefecture has just started excusing himself, saying he didn't know nor informed in advance about what the contents or the messages of those problematic exhibits hijacking traditional Int'l art museum exhibition, were meant to portray under the Freedom of ExPRESSSSIIIOOONN.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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