Nikon Corp. canceled its planned photo exhibition of wartime sex slaves for “various reasons,” the major camera maker has announced.
Although Nikon declined to state the specific reasons for the cancellation, a company spokesman admitted it received a number of complaints about the event, which was to be held from June 26 to July 9 at Shinjuku Nikon Salon in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward. The photos were taken by South Korean photographer Ahn Sehong.
“We received complaints by mail and telephone, but we cannot comment on how many complaints we got or the nature of the complaints,” said the spokesman, who asked not to be named.
Euphemistically known in Japan as the “comfort women,” the young women and girls, in large part of Korean origin, were forced into sexual slavery for the Imperial armed forces during the war.
The atrocity has been a major source of diplomatic friction in Asia, especially between South Korea and Japan.
In 1993, Yohei Kono, then chief Cabinet secretary, issued a statement acknowledging the state played a role in the wartime brothel program and offered an apology. But the government has refused to pay individual redress.
The Japan Visual Journalist Association is preparing a statement slamming Nikon for violating freedom of expression, said Takeharu Watai, one of the three representatives of the group.
“This is basically Nikon’s self-censorship. Is it all right for a large corporation like Nikon to permit such a wimpy reaction?” Takei asked.
Nikon called on the public for photos to display at the Shinjuku salon late last year and decided to hold the exhibition of Ahn’s comfort women photos earlier this year, the spokesman said.
On May 21, Internet bulletin boards 2channel and Yahoo Chiebukuro Q&A forum had postings on the event, which had the obvious intention of soliciting protests. The 2channel posts have a phone number and detailed information on Ahn, an Aichi Prefecture resident, and called on others to lodge protests targeting the photographer.
Nikon decided to cancel the photo exhibition the following day, the spokesman said.
Military Sexual Slavery by Japan During the Second World War, a group seeking to raise awareness of the sex slaves, released a statement May 24 that said: “Ahn Sehong does not accept the cancellation of the photo exhibition, which (Nikon) cannot explain the reasons for. The world-renowned Nikon’s reaction damages one photographer’s honor and will be known by the global media.”
In contrast to Nikon’s decision, the city of Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture, will stick to its plan to hold an exhibition of Ahn’s comfort women photos at a community hall from 2 to 4:30 p.m. on June 10.
“We have received some complaints. But (Ahn) asked to use the hall and we confirmed there is no violation of city ordinances. Thus there is no reason to reject his request,” Yokkaichi official Takuya Sugawa said.