Japan art festival halts exhibition of "comfort women" statue
A major art festival in central Japan shut down Saturday one of its exhibits featuring a statue symbolizing "comfort women," who were forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels, following a flurry of protests, the organizer said.
The decision came just three days after the opening of the 75-day festival at a time when tensions between Japan and South Korea have been escalating over wartime history and trade policy. The shutdown has also sparked controversy over freedom of expression.
"It is historic outrage," a group of individuals that produced "After 'Freedom of Expression?'" said in a statement in response to the organizing committee's decision. "This will be the worst censorship incident in Japan's postwar period."
The group said it is considering taking legal action.
Japan-South Korea relations have long been frayed over historical issues stemming from Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula between 1910 and 1945.
The dispute over "comfort women" -- a euphemism used in referring to those recruited mostly from other Asian countries to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II -- has been a major sticking point.