Protests may see ‘comfort women’ statue removed from Japanese art event in Aichi

NAGOYA – A statue of a girl symbolizing the wartime “comfort women” may be removed from an international art event in Aichi Prefecture after drawing a storm of protest, the event’s artistic director said.

The “Statue of a Girl of Peace” has been receiving harsh criticism since Aichi Triennale 2019 started on Thursday. The term comfort women is a euphemism for the women, mainly Koreans, who provided sex — including those who did so against their will — for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

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Journalist Daisuke Tsuda, who serves as the event’s artistic director, said Friday that he will consider options including the possible removal of the statue.

“Concerns over staff and visitor safety are rising as we are getting a flood of protest calls,” Tsuda told a news conference. The statue has drawn about 1,400 complaints, according to event staff.

“We wanted people to look at an art work that was rejected by a museum for exhibition, to think about the freedom of expression,” he said.

He offered an apology to the people concerned for attracting an unexpected amount of criticism.

Tsuda said he will hold talks with Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura, head of the event’s organizing committee, and others shortly to make a final decision on the fate of the statue.

The event features work by more than 90 artists from home and abroad. The statue, created by South Korean sculptors Kim Seo-kyung and Kim Eun-sung, is displayed at a booth called “After ‘Freedom of Expression?’”

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura urged Omura to terminate the exhibition of the statue, saying it insults Japanese people’s feelings. The city of Nagoya is covering the cost of the event.

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