Here's an image used in one of the ads:
I couldn't help but remember this photo:
Suffice to say, the photo above got a much different response when it first appeared four years ago. Whereas Coreana felt the only thing they needed to do was remove the word "Hitler," those involved in the photos taken below felt compelled to respond rather differently.
It all started on February 12, 2004. As the Chosun Ilbo tells us,
Lee Seung-yeon, Lototo Inc. and Netian Entertainment Inc. held a press conference Thursday and said “we are taking photos and making a film on the subject of the ‘comfort women’ starring Lee Seung-yeon, and it will be made available from early March by way of a paid service through the wireless service provider, Syswall.”Here are the photos that were released to the media (a couple are NSFW).
You can imagine how well the last two photos went over. The company's explanation is unbelievable:
They said they were motivated by the recent "Dokdo Islet dispute’ between Korea and Japan, and chose the subject because they were distressed to see the ‘comfort women’ issue being forgotten all the time.
They also said that the “'comfort women’ were the model upon which the sexuality of women was commercialized and were the starting point for a wrong history. They said that much of the profit from the collection would go to help the women who were ‘comfort women.'
The production company said that the filming was done on Palau Island in the Pacific, where the ‘comfort girls’ were really taken to, and plans to conduct second and third filmings in Japan, Nepal and other countries.
How shooting erotic photos of a woman dressed as a comfort woman, crouching in front of a Japanese soldier, and standing before a rising sun Japanese flag work as a protest against the commercialization of women's sexuality is beyond me. The surviving comfort women were not amused:
“I want to see Lee Seung-yeon on her knees in front of me telling me how this all began,” cried Hwang Geum-ju, one of the 132 former Korean comfort woman still living. She and several women’s groups demanded yesterday that the photographer and the production company involved in the shoot cancel their plans to open the Web site.So began the apologizing process.
In a press conference yesterday Ms. Lee defended the photographs as an attempt to “console” the comfort women, not to exploit them. She said she would donate part of the proceeds from the project to them.
On February 16, Park Ji-woo apologized and shaved his head.
The comfort women were unimpressed, so the next day, Lee Seung-yeon went to the House of Sharing in Gwangju (Gyeonggi-do) and apologized. Members of the media seem to outnumber the participants by at least 10 to 1.
Note the recording devices at bottom right above (and bottom left below).
In the end she tearfully apologizes. Between the crying and the overwhelming presence of the media, I can't help but be reminded of this.
More photos can be found here.
Being made to kneel and cry in front of the comfort women was not thorough enough, however.
Ms. Lee said in a magazine interview that she is ready to give up her career in the entertainment industry. After the 20-minute apology, the former comfort women were still dissatisfied. “The entertainment company director should have come too. Are they mocking us?” they said after Ms. Lee left.The next day the company director asked to be allowed to show the footage that had been taken to civic groups and members of the government in order to prove that his intentions had been good. This didn't get a favorable response.
“Ms. Lee apologized to comfort women yesterday and the women begged her to destroy all the photos from the project. She cried on her knees but it was all a show,” senior council official Kang Hye-ju said. “We filed a court request for the photographs and video to be banned from distribution on the Internet. We will wait for the court’s decision on provisional disposition.”The Chosun Ilbo wrote that
It seems like the company's constant delays in destroying the footage are because the company fears serious financial losses. Netian has been pleading that the project is not commercial, and one can see the company's pure intentions by watching the video and looking at the photos, but Korean Internet users have yet to be convinced.
Quite the contrary, users are condemning Netian for being defensive and failing to realize just what they've done.
The next day, Park, joined by several dozen photographers, burned the photos.
With this, after passing from head-shaving to bowing and tears to flames, the furor died down.
I'm sure I don't have to point out the rather large gulf between this and the response of Coreana to western 'concern' over the Nazi- themed commercials. Simply changing a word or a similar action on the part of Netian would never have sufficed to appease the anger of many groups in Korea. Differing perceptions of the Nazis and the imperial Japanese certainly play an important role in this, but note also the difference between a politely worded letter from the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a comfort woman who can say, "I want to see Lee Seung-yeon on her knees in front of me". Those affected by the Nazis, and westerners in general as a group within Korea, simply do not have the voice (and the power to get it heard) that many groups in Korea have. Getting Coreana to dump the whole ad or apologize will require much more than a polite letter.