Conflict ignites over “comfort women” comic exhibition


If one picture paints a thousand words, imagine a whole room full of them. One art exhibition in particular struck a chord with Japan.

Tokyo took offense with an international comic book festival held in France which featured works of South Korean comic artists who are depicting the plight of women and girls who were forced into wartime sex slavery by the Japanese military.

“The Flower That Doesn’t Wilt: I’m the Evidence,” which opened Thursday, displayed 19 manhwa, or Korean comics, on the lives of so-called “comfort women.”

Japanese ambassador to France, Yoichi Suzuki, expressed his country’s “deep regret” over the exhibition, saying it promoted “a mistaken point of view that further complicates relations between South Korea and Japan.”

Franck Bondoux, director of the Angouleme International Comics Festival, told AFP that Japan had not asked for the exhibit to be cancelled.

“The subject was proposed by the South Korean government but the artists were completely free to evoke the subject independently,” Bondoux said.

He added that he hoped the exhibit “serves as an opportunity to repent for past mistakes and errors.”

Organizers later shut down a Japanese publishing booth at the same event for displaying a banner that read, “Comfort women do not exist,” claiming the booth was politicizing the exhibit.

The politically charged issue remains a flashpoint in relations between Japan and South Korea. Recent remarks by Katsuto Momii, the head of Japanese public broadcaster NHK, claiming the use of sex slaves was commonplace the world over, stoked regional tensions and raised long-running accusations against Japan that it felt no remorse over its atrocities.

By Maesie Bertumen




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