An art exhibition featuring a “comfort woman” statue that had been shut down in August should be reopened, the governor of a host prefecture in central Japan said Wednesday.
“We would like to aim for the reopening of the exhibition after certain conditions are met,” Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura said at a news conference in Nagoya.
Omura made the remark after receiving a similar proposal from a review panel the Aichi prefectural government set up after the controversial shutdown of the exhibition.
But he stopped short of saying when the exhibition, which involves a statue symbolizing women forced to work in Japanese military brothels, should be reopened.
The exhibition “After Freedom of Expression?” and which was part of the Aichi Triennale 2019 festival, was closed three days after the opening over security concerns due to multiple threats to the festival.
The governor serves as chairman of the steering committee of the Triennale festival.
The exhibition opened Aug. 1 at a time when relations between Japan and South Korea have hit the lowest level in years in disputes over wartime history and trade policy.
It also included other exhibitions such as one on the Japan’s imperial system.
The exhibition was originally scheduled to end on Oct. 14.
Opposition to a reopening remains, with Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura who serves as acting chairman of the steering committee of the Triennale, saying it would be outrageous if it happens.
Kawamura has argued the comfort women statue should not be displayed at a publicly funded event as its presence could give the false impression that Japan has accepted South Korea’s claim the women were forcibly taken by the Japanese military.
An interim report by the six-member panel, released Wednesday, said the exhibition “should be reopened quickly as conditions are met.”
Such conditions include mitigating risks of attack and threats on organizers by phone calls and fax, improving the setup and explanations of the exhibited items, and banning visitors from taking photos and spreading them through social media.
The panel said it is vital that organizers ensure close communications with foreign artists who believe the shutdown was “de-facto censorship citing concerns about terrorism and safety on the surface.”
The panel commended the theme of “freedom of expression” but said it was difficult to conclude if the event was effective in conveying its original intent because many of the exhibits carried political messages such as the comfort women statue.