Japanese curator calls for global alliance against art censorship by Tokyo

SEOUL-- A visiting Japanese curator on Thursday called for worldwide efforts to fight growing art censorship in Japan and resume the exhibition of a statue of a girl representing victims of Japan's World War II-era sexual slavery at an international arts festival in Aichi Prefecture, central Japan.

Yuka Okamoto, who planned the exhibition of "Statue of a Girl of Peace" at the Aichi Triennale 2019, is visiting Seoul to attend a forum organized by Cultural Action, a South Korean civic group, to discuss the Japanese authorities' decision to suspend the display of the statue early this month.

The Aichi Triennale 2019, which started its 75-day run at the Aichi Arts Center on Aug. 1, shut down one of its exhibition sections featuring "Statue of a Girl of Peace" on Aug. 3 under threats from ultraright Japanese protesters and pressure from the Japanese government, which has toughened export restrictions for South Korea over a row surrounding wartime forced labor.

The statue, which symbolizes Korean women who were forced to serve as sexual slaves for front-line Japanese soldiers during the war, was created by a South Korean artist and was on display at the international contemporary art festival. Historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual servitude in front-line Japanese brothels during World War II when the Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony. Those sex slaves were euphemistically called comfort women.

Okamoto, together with other Japanese curators and artists, has led efforts to resume the exhibition of the comfort woman statue, while protesting its recent shutdown as an act of "historical violence."

"The problem is not restricted to the Aichi Triennale. All of Japanese society should be seen. I've heard there was also a blacklist scandal in South Korea. The problem of censorship is a global problem," Okamoto said in a meeting with reporters in Seoul.

"'Statue of a Girl of Peace' was the most attacked work in the Aichi Triennale. But other works dealing with the Japanese emperor were also attacked a lot. That's the real aspect of Japanese society. We need to look at them carefully," she said.

"An alliance is needed to fight such censorship. Without an alliance, Japanese society will be thrown into a very serious situation," Okamoto said, calling for efforts to ally with citizens and even Aichi Governor Hideaki Omura, as well as with artists.

She also raised the need to form a worldwide alliance against art censorship in Japan.

Dismissing criticism against the comfort woman statue, Okamoto said it's an artwork that symbolizes grief, pain and women's human rights.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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