French Comic Book Fest Draws Huge Crowds

The world-famous Angoulême International Comics Festival kicked off in southwestern France on Jan. 30 for its four-day run. This year, a series of comic books portraying the suffering of sex slaves for the imperial Japanese Army during World War II were put on display at the festival.

Angoulême has long been a premier showcase for Japanese manga, and Japan sponsors 30 percent of the W5 billion (US$1=W1,073) budget of the festival. Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family pushed for the display of the comic books at the festival to highlight the Japanese atrocities.

The Japanese government tried everything it could to block the Korean comics. The Japanese Embassy in France asked the organizing body to stop their display and tried to hang a banner in the Asian exhibition hall, which displays and sells comics from Korea, China and Taiwan, claiming that there was no forced mobilization of "comfort women" -- the Japanese euphemism.

But the organizers ordered the removal of the banner, saying its political nature had no place at the event.

A visitor to the Angoulême International Comics Festival on Thursday looks at a work themed on women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II. A visitor to the Angoulême International Comics Festival on Thursday looks at a work themed on women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II.

The Japanese move backfired because it only boosted publicity for the Korean comics. On the first day of the festival, the displays drew 3,200 spectators and the next day another 4,600, completely filling up the 230 sq.m exhibition space.

On Saturday, the last day of the festival, closing time had to be extended by an hour to 7 p.m. to accommodate the visitors.

Organizers of the Korean comic displays estimate that it was seen by around 20,000 visitors.

The Cartoonists Association and the Korea Manwha Contents Agency were involved in the project, which included 20 comics and four animated features focusing on the plight of the sex slaves.

englishnews@chosun.com / Feb. 03, 2014 11:55 KST