TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese exhibit dedicated to censored art reopened Tuesday after being forced to close because of threats over a statue symbolizing World War II Korean “comfort women” sexually abused by Japanese soldiers.
The exhibit, part of the Aichi Triennale 2019 art festival, features a “comfort woman” statue and other works previously censored because of themes considered taboo in Japan, such as wartime history and Emperor Hirohito’s role in the war.
The “Freedom of Expression?” exhibit reopened Tuesday, a week before the end of the 75-day festival in central Japan, following demands from artists and others.
It was shut three days after opening in August in response to protests against the statue as Tokyo’s relations with Seoul deteriorated over history and trade tensions. An arson threat escalated fears.
Security checks at the exhibit are extra tight, with no bags allowed inside the exhibit hall where the statue of a seated girl in traditional Korean dress, a small yellow bird perched on her shoulder, is located.
For Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his conservative supporters, the statue is an eyesore. They have campaigned to put embarrassing wartime history in the past, and complained about the growing number of “comfort women” statues built by South Korean activists in and outside South Korea, including the United States.
The government rejected a subsidy for the exhibit organizers, citing a procedural issue with the application and not the statue.
Historians say tens of thousands of women, including Japanese, Koreans and others from around Asia were sent to brothels to provide sex for Japanese soldiers. They were euphemistically called “comfort women.”
A 1995 Japanese fund for medical care and welfare made payments to more than 280 women, including South Koreans, but many others in that country rejected the money and sought further official apologies. Another Japanese fund established under a 2015 agreement with Seoul is also up in the air.
Follow Mari Yamaguchi on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/mariyamaguchi
Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.