|Ahn Se-Hong's exhibition on comfort women, originally posted on facebook, used with permission|
Ahn Se-Hong, a South Korean photographer, is a photojournalist living in Nagoya, Japan. He has been taking photos of the surviving Korean ‘comfort women’ (now in their 80s-90s) since 1996. "Comfort women" was a euphemism used to describe the women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II and is an issue of much contention in Japan especially among extremist right-wing political groups. Se-Hong’s “Layer by Layer” project was to be held on 26th June 2012 at the Nikon Salon in Tokyo, sponsored by the Nikon Company and he was scheduled to talk about related issues to the project when it was cancelled by Nikon three days after a news article appeared about the show (1). The company told the photographer it was pulling the plug after receiving calls protesting the event. An internet campaign (2) to force Nikon to show the photographs commenced and the cancellation prompted Se-Hong to ask the Tokyo District Court to issue an injunction and order the company to provide the Nikon Salon. (2) Despite a Judge ordering Nikon to hold the show (3), threats of violence disrupted Se-Hong’s life and protests have been held outside the exhibition (4) Reports from visitors to the show have stated that there are security guards stationed at the entrance with metal detectors. An in-depth article about the show and the restrictions and surveillance Se-Hong was put under as the exhibition opened to the public is available here.
The uproar over the black-and-white images taken by Se-Hong underscores the power photography holds and the sensitivity, decades later, concerning the plight of Korean women forced to serve the Japanese military as sex slaves during World War II. Some Japanese conservatives still deny there was an organized campaign of sexual slavery although in the Japanese Government has acknowledged the Comfort Women issue (4) and extended official apologies, sending a Letter from the Prime Minister to the Former Comfort Women (6)