Japan: Company’s attempt to close South Korean photo exhibition failed

10 July 2012

At the last minute the Japanese camera manufacturer Nikon wanted to cancel a photo exhibition which was to be held in Tokyo from 26 June to 9 July 2012 at the Shinjuku Nikon Salon by the South Korean photographer Ahn Sehong.

View of Ahn Sehong’s exhibition “Layer by Layer” in Tokyo. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

Nikon reportedly received a large number of complaints against the exhibition in Tokyo which had a theme on the contentious issue of women who were kept as ‘sex-slaves’ for Japanese soldiers during wartime. Ahn Sehong’s exhibition featured 37 black-and-white photos of elderly Korean women living in China whom Ahn has been photographing over the past decade.

The issue of wartime sex-slaves has been a controversial debate between South Korea and Japan.

Supporters and activists from the Japan Visual Journalist Association condemned the cancellation as a sign of self-censorship imposed by the company.
Cancelled for “various reasons”
An article by’s Miryam Rodriguez explained that in December 2011, Ahn Sehong had successfully applied to exhibit his photographic series “Layer by Layer: Korean women left behind in China who were comfort women of the Japanese military” at Nikon Corporation’s Nikon Salon gallery space in Shinjuku.

However, on 22 May 2012, Nikon Corporation cancelled the exhibition citing the show’s political intentions — to lobby the Japanese government for a formal apology. Nikon failed to give more precise reasons for the cancellation, but stated that the exhibit was cancelled due to “various reasons”.

Eventually, Nikon however reluctantly honoured a Tokyo District Court injunction won by Ahn Sehong on 22 June 2012, which ruled the company’s reasons for cancellation to be insufficient and ordered the show to go ahead.

When the exhibition opened on 26 June as scheduled, it attracted the attention of both an interested public and protesting antagonists. Expecting around 1,000 visitors, when the exhibition closed as scheduled on 9 July, Ahn estimated it had attracted around five times that number, which he readily admits was probably due to the attempts by Nikon to close it in the first place. – 10 July 2012:
Controversial “comfort women” exhibition closes in Tokyo
by Miryam Rodriguez

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