France's Angoulême Comics Festival Displays Comfort Women Manhwa
posted on by Sarah Nelkin
France's Angoulême International Comics Festival opened on Thursday with an exhibit featuring about 10 manhwa (Korean comics) about "comfort women." The exhibit focuses on young women and girls forced into prostitution by the former Empire of Japan's military during World War II. The South Korean government requested the event to hold the exhibition.
The description at the entrance to the exhibit claims that Japan has still not recognized the problem of comfort women. The issue of comfort women has become a hot topic in Japan after Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto made a controversial comment on the subject last May. In the July 2013 issue of Studio Ghibli's Neppū magazine, director and Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki wrote that Japan should apologize and pay compensation for its crimes during the war, including the use of comfort women.
About 600 people visited the comfort women exhibit in Angoulême on Thursday. One female visitor commented, “This is too cruel. I'm going to show it to my daughter as well. Why won't Japan admit to this?” Another visitor said, “This is the first time I ever learned such a truth. It's disappointing that Japan won't recognize the incident.”
Yoon-Sun Cho, Minister of Gender Equality and Family of the Republic of Korea, visited the festival on Thursday to announce the opening of the manhwa exhibit titled Chiru Koto no Nai Hana (The Flower That Doesn't Wilt). An informational session about the exhibit was also planned for the local press, but it was canceled at the Angoulême organizers' request.
The Japanese Embassy is passing out pamphlets at the event's press center that detail the Japanese government's efforts and stance on the issue. However, Angoulême organizers rejected a certain Japanese manga about comfort women from being displayed at the event. The manga supports the claim that there was no forced labor of comfort women by the former Japanese military.
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan Fumio Kishida responded at a press conference on Friday by saying, "It is disappointing that this action does not follow stated goal of deepening international understanding and friendship through comics." Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga added, "This is a problem that should be fixed by the executive committee and non-governmental organizations."
Angoulême International Comics Festival launched in 1974 as an event celebrating comics from countries throughout the world. The annual event is the largest comics festival in Europe and one of the largest in the world. The current festival is running in Angoulême, France until Sunday. Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira, Steamboy, Short Peace) is one of three nominees for the top prize, the Grand Prix, at this year's event.