'Comfort women' exhibition goes ahead amid protests

June 26, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

A “comfort women” photo exhibition opened amid protests and high security at the Shinjuku Nikon Salon in Tokyo on June 26, after Nikon Corp. reluctantly gave in to a court injunction ordering it not to cancel the show.

A crowd of protesters gathered outside the gallery as the doors opened at 10:30 a.m. One protester shouted through a microphone: "We don't tolerate a photo show that defames the Japanese."

A placard in the crowd read: "The forcible carting-off of ‘comfort women’ is the biggest fabrication in history."

Security guards were posted outside the venue, and exhibition goers were required to pass their bags through a metal detector before entering.

Some people did brave the intimidating atmosphere to view the 37 photographs by Ahn Se-hong, a 41-year-old South Korean photographer, about Korean women who were forced to provide sex for Japanese soldiers during World War II.

"The expressions on the face of every one of the old women (in the photographs) made me realize how much they must have gone through in their lives,” said a 42-year-old woman from Shizuoka Prefecture.

Nikon banned reporters from the exhibition hall.

"We decline to be covered by reporters. The matter has created such a major controversy that we cannot deal with it," said a Nikon representative.

Nikon had also tried to cancel the exhibition, saying it was “political,” but decided to go ahead after the Tokyo District Court granted an injunction to the photographer on June 22, forcing it to honor an earlier agreement to host the photographs.

Nikon has filed an appeal against the Tokyo District Court injunction and says it still may close the show before its scheduled closure on July 9.

"We may ask for the suspension of the exhibition, even if it still has days to go, if the court approves our objection," a Nikon official said.

Internet postings have branded the exhibition as an act of treason. Ahn said he received silent phone calls and letters protesting the exhibition, and sources said Nikon was similarly pressured.

Ahn applied to Nikon to use the venue in December. His request was approved in January but Nikon told him in May that it was canceling the show on account of its "political" content. Ahn sought an injunction from the Tokyo District Court to allow him to use the venue, which the court issued on June 22.

"I feel sad about the confusion on the venue, but I am honored to have so many people look at my pieces of work," Ahn said.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Ahn Se-hong shows his photos of Korean "comfort women" at a news conference in Tokyo on June 22. (Shingo Kuzutani)

Ahn Se-hong shows his photos of Korean "comfort women" at a news conference in Tokyo on June 22. (Shingo Kuzutani)

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  • Ahn Se-hong shows his photos of Korean "comfort women" at a news conference in Tokyo on June 22. (Shingo Kuzutani)

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