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Statue of 'comfort woman' in Japan draws crowds, jeers

A gallery exhibit of a “comfort woman” statue in Nagoya, Japan, drew crowds Tuesday, according to a South Korean press report. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
A gallery exhibit of a “comfort woman” statue in Nagoya, Japan, drew crowds Tuesday, according to a South Korean press report. Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

July 6 (UPI) -- Japanese far-right protesters calling for the severing of diplomatic relations with South Korea disrupted a "comfort woman" exhibit at a municipal gallery in central Japan, according to a South Korean press report.

Channel A reported Tuesday the demonstrators used vans fitted with loudspeakers to interfere with the art exhibit outside the gallery in the city of Nagoya.

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Inside the building, protesters touched the statue, placing their hands on the head of the figure that portrays a teenage Korean woman in traditional dress -- a symbol of victims forced to serve in Japanese wartime brothels.

The statue, deemed controversial in Japan, first went on display in the country at the 2019 Aichi Triennale. The exhibit was titled "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" Kyodo News reported Tuesday.

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Controversy over the statue forced exhibitors in Tokyo to indefinitely postpone a show in the city last month. Protesters using loudspeakers pressured organizers to rethink holding the event, according to Kyodo.

Other plans to display the statue in Osaka could be placed on hold after local authorities revoked a permit to use a public venue for the exhibit.

The gallery in Nagoya drew long lines of visitors Tuesday, Channel A reported.

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Teruko Sugimoto told the South Korean network that the statue represented "peace."

Takashi Uchida, another local visitor, said that as a father of an 11-year-old girl seeing the statue was "cathartic" for him, the report said. Many of the women have said they were adolescents when they were taken from their homes.

Yuji Nakatani, head of the exhibition's executive committee, told Channel A that threats against freedom of expression is "unacceptable in a democratic society," referring to the right-wing demonstrators.

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South Korea and Japan have been unable to reach an agreement on compensation for surviving comfort women after Seoul decided to shutter a foundation designed to allocate $10 million to the victims.

Some of the women rejected the funds, including former comfort woman Kim Bok-dong. Kim died in 2019.

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