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Europe cries over ‘cartoons on comfort women’

Posted February. 03, 2014 08:16,   


The biggest issue at the Angouleme International Comics Festival, which ended in Angoulem, France on Sunday (local time), was the Korean cartoon exhibition “The Unfading Flower.”

The special exhibition, which brought together 19 veteran cartoonists including Lee Hyun-se, featured comics and animations about victims of sex slavery for the Japanese military.

Japan’s ultra-rightest groups and cartoonists constantly and stubbornly demanded the organizing committee of the festival to cancel the exhibition by phone and email until the eve of opening day. The Japanese government also pressured the committee to “reconsider the special Korean exhibition” through its embassy in Paris.

A briefing session on “The Unfading Flower” was scheduled in Paris on Wednesday last week ahead of the opening with Korean Minister of Gender Equality and Family Affairs Cho Yoon-sun in attendance, but was canceled on the very day at the organizing committee’s request. Some news reports said the committee cancelled the event as it surrendered to Japan’s pressure.

However, Frank Bondoux, chairman of the organizing committee, called a joint press conference with Korea in an unusual move on Thursday, where he said, “I meant that rather than Korea raising voice alone in Paris, Korea and we can raise voice together in Angouleme.” Bondoux also said, “We must use the special exhibition on comfort women as an opportunity to reflect upon wrongdoings of the past, and end violence against women. Only then humanity can evolve.”

Japan continued its campaign to block the exhibition while the event was underway. A Japanese publisher placed a banner reading “Comfort women did not exist,” which was removed by the Angouleme organizing committee.

However, the power of truth was truly immense. Nearly 20,000 people visited the four-day exhibition. The exhibition had a “Make-Wish Wall” where visitors were invited to write messages to victims of comfort women. The wall was filled with messages cheering the sex slaves in various languages including English, French, and Chinese, to its capacity on the closing day. “Your scar and pain is my scar and pain.” “We thank you for displaying courage on behalf of all people who are struggling amid oppression.”

“The Unfading Flower” reminded people of the power of comics that goes beyond national border and language, and power of cultural contents. However, Angouleme is just beginning. Messages of cheering on “Make-wish Wall” will remain in the mind of people for long. “This is a story about us all. This should not end here.”