Ahn Se-hong, a South Korean photographer whose exhibition on ‘comfort women’ was cancelled abruptly by sponsor Nikon, is now receiving threats and having his life disrupted by Japanese right-wing conservatives. Nikon refused to give an explanation as to why they canceled Ahn’s exhibition in Shinjuku, but it is believed that they were pressured by conservative groups to call off the event, as it showcased the artist’s photographs of Korean women who had been forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during their Chinese occupation preceding and during World War II. Ahn was furious, and insisted that the exhibition go on, but now he is the subject of harassment and demonstrations.
Living in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Ahn Se-hong’s personal information, such as phone numbers and addresses for both his home and office, as well as information about people he knows, has been posted on the internet. He says that he receives at least one or two hang-up calls at day at both home and office, as well as receiving letters with no return addresses that say “go back to Korea” and to “stop lying.” Right wing supporters have posted video online that call for a protest of a lecture Ahn has scheduled in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, on June 10th. A group calling themselves the Citizens’ Association for Disallowing Preferential Treatment for Zainichi Koreans have also begun a telephone campaign against Yokkaichi city hall in order to stop the lecture. On the group’s website, they state that they will do everything they can to stop the event, and they can’t, then there will be protests in the street at the venue.
It still remains taboo in Japan to discuss the cruel acts committed during wartime, especially the comfort women issue. The Japanese government has never issued a formal apology to South Korea or its victims. There was outrage from South Koreans towards the cancellation of Ahn’s photo exhibition. This was fueled by the Japanese government’s earlier request for a comfort women memorial in New Jersey, U.S., to be taken down. The local community, made up of a large population of South Korean descendants, was furious, and the news made its way around the globe to Korean citizens. A spokesperson for Ahn has said that he still plans to go ahead with the lecture in Yokkaichi, as well as a display of his works on June 25th, the original date for the cancelled Nikon display in Shinjuku, Tokyo.