The news is that Nikon has decided to cancel an exhibition of the work of one Ahn Sehong, a photographer whose work includes some very touching photos of surviving* Comfort Women, including some Korean women left behind in China:
In the latest flare-up over Japan’s ongoing handling of Korean “comfort women” during World War II, Tokyo-based camera company Nikon Corp. has stirred controversy by cancelling a planned exhibit on the subject by a South Korean photographer.The Wall Street Journal blog piece also ties this in with the Japanese diplomats' efforts to get the heavily kyopo (Korean American) community of Palisades Park** to remove the memorial. (Note, below, that the memorial does not mention Koreans once, even though Korean women made up the bulk of the women forced or duped into the Ianfu (Wianbu in Korean).
The exhibit was to have been shown at the company’s Shinjuku salon from June 26 to July 9, and included photos of women who said they had been held as sexual slaves by the Japanese military in China in the 1930s and 1940s.
A spokeswoman for the photographer, Ahn Se-hong, said an official from Nikon called him last week and told him the exhibit would be cancelled, but did not give him any reason. The spokeswoman, Sadik Lee, told JRT that a Nikon official said they would like to meet Mr. Ahn in person to apologize, but he refused until he was given an explanation.
A Nikon spokesman, who declined to be named, confirmed the cancellation, and told JRT that “considering various circumstances in a comprehensive way, we have come to decide to cancel it. This is all we can say.”
The spokesman wouldn’t elaborate, but did confirm Japanese press reports of protests that Nikon received against the planned exhibit. The Asahi Shimbun reported that several complaints surfaced on the Internet, branding the exhibit a “betrayal” of Japan, and calling for protests of the exhibit.
While they like to depict Japan as the one rational player here, this kind of action — going beyond deliberately downplaying unpleasant history and instead attempting to sanitize the historical record of some of the most egregious wrongdoing of Japan's imperial past — this concerted movement to instill collective amnesia at home and abroad goes beyond the pale.
Make not mistake: this is a pattern. We saw the same thing late last year after a simple but profound statue dedicated to the Comfort Women (pictured below) was erected across the street from the Japanese embassy to mark the 1000th weekly protest by surviving* Comfort Women at the same spot. That, too, brought official complaints from Japanese diplomats.
I'm truly torn. This is the kind of thing that can influence me to boycott certain products in protest. But I already have bought the Nikon D60. Back when I was undecided between the Nikon and its Canon equivalent, this would have easily sent me over to Canon (who, as far as I know, has not turned invertebrate in such a way, but who themselves may never have sought such a controversial exhibition at all).
I wish that there were some way that I and others in the anglophone K-blogopshere could individually or collectively exhibit Mr Ahn's work as a show of solidarity.
* I've started adding the word surviving to "Comfort Women" not just to reflect their advanced age but also because I've been reading lately how many women died during the actual war from disease, bombs, or bullets while "serving" in the Wianbu. It's much more than I'd realized.
** At the risk of sounding glib in such a serious post, I find it amusing that so many Koreans have flocked to the New Jersey communities of Palisades Park and Fort Lee. But I'm easily amused.
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