During a week of tragedy, the Korean Students Association and the Coalition for Comfort Women Issues (CCW) once again invite the Cornell community to remember onto the tragedies of the past at a photo exhibition held at the Willard Straight Hall Art Gallery. The exhibition is open until tomorrow.

The exhibit, "Comfort Women: Suffering and Dignity in Asia during World War II," features the photos of Korean-American photographer Yunghi Kim and a copy of the first English-language book, Comfort Women Speak, that chronicles some women's experiences in their own words. Along with these, the presentation includes original artwork from surviving women.

This exhibit, which had already visited the campus in March 2001, follows organizers' plans to invite a comfort station survivor to speak at Cornell Nov. 5 at the Statler Auditorium.

Mark Hwang '02 is one of many organizers from the CCW who feel that learning about this issue now can help prevent injustice in the future.

"The issue of the Comfort Women is also a story filled with courage and dignity of extraordinary women who, albeit advanced in age, decided to come forth and demand for justice. These women truly deserve stage on our campus for what they're doing. They're doing it for our generation, so that we will never fall victim to another such tragedy," Hwang said.

Although these events occurred decades ago, it is only until now that the CCW is bringing these women's stories to universities, such as Cornell and Georgetown University, and public arenas across the country, among them the Philadelphia Free Library,

"Basically we want to inform people," said Erin Chu '03, of the Korean Student Association's political committee. "[We want] people to connect with the Comfort Women."

Chu hopes that through this exhibit, more members of the Cornell community can connect with the atrocities of the past and connect with the now much older victims.

To connect with the Comfort Women's story is to connect with a tragic history of sexual enslavement and secrecy during World War II.

Historically called the "Comfort Women," they are a group of approximately 200,000 women of Korean, Chinese and other Asian decent who were forced into sexual slavery at the hand of the Japanese Imperial Military from 1932 until the end of World War II.

They lived in "comfort stations" which lined East Asia. Many of these women were only teenage girls when the military undertook this then-legal practice, bringing women to camps where they were often raped and tortured.

Through this exhibit, the sponsor organizations stated that they do not want to blame Japan for its actions nor were they against any Japanese person now, however they want to honor the women who died at the hands of the Japanese and acknowledge to the world that this ordeal even occurred.

The Japanese government did not officially offer an apology or reparations to the Comfort Women until 1995.

"It is our intent to commemorate the lives of all 'comfort women' of World War II and express our respect for the dignity and honor for women who were murdered as sexual slaves and for those who survived sexual slavery during the war," said by the Coordinating Committee for the CCW in their letter to members of the Cornell community which was available to visitors at the exhibit.

Given the subject matter, visitor response ranged from "shock" to "anger" as they read and listened to the stories of the surviving women.

Monica Jeong '02, a student of Korean decent, found that she was angered upon learning the horrendous stories of the victims. She agreed that the focus of the exhibit is not to blame but to celebrate.

"It's sad to see, if you think about that part of history," Jeong said. "They don't even attempt to address it. It's a really big issue."

Jeong noted the apparent refusal of the Japanese government to acknowledge the issue as the topic is often absent in Japanese textbooks.

She also considered the exhibit a reminder of the pain that the women of her country had to endure.

"Those people [in the photos] looked like my own grandmother. I'm probably going to look like that [when I grow older]," she added.

The exhibit will travel to Harvard University, Princeton University and Yale University later this year.

Archived article by Carlos Perkins

November 22, 2015

ILR Students Protest Labor Cartoon Exhibit

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Student pushback to a number of political cartoons displayed in Ives Hall, and the alleged theft of one of the pieces, has prompted a discussion about freedom of speech and political discourse in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations and around campus.

Gary Huck and Mike Konopacki, two of the leading labor cartoonists in the country, were invited to the ILR Labor Roundtable, hosted by the school on Nov. 13. The event is held annually to show students ways they can become professionally involved in the labor rights and social justice movements, and consistently features guest artists. 

As in previous years, the artists’ work was installed in a temporary exhibit on the first floor of Ives Hall, but this year some of the pieces made students uncomfortable, leading some to request their removal, according to Prof. Kate Bronfenbrenner, industrial and labor relations.


Cartoons displayed in Ives Hall as part of an exhibit has drawn criticism from students. The above cartoon features the GOP elephant with its trunk up a woman’s skirt. (Cameron Pollack / Sun Senior Photographer)

Students contacted student services to express their discomfort, particularly with two of the pieces: one featuring the GOP elephant with its trunk up a woman’s skirt and another with a swastika superimposed on the confederate flag, according to Bronfenbrenner.

“We’ve invited people who’ve been much more provocative than the two we invited this time,” Bronfenbrenner said, “but I think the times have changed so that people on the right are emboldened, because of perhaps by the Tea Party or others.” She added that “there’s a sense that the First Amendment doesn’t apply.”

Initially, staff responded that the the offensive pieces would be taken down, but ILR faculty stepped in to defend the protection of first amendment rights, according to Bronfenbrenner.

Kevin Hallock, dean of the ILR school, later issued a statement explaining the decision to leave the exhibit intact.

“Art can sometimes shock and be controversial, and the dialogue created can be important, especially in an institution like ours where the principles of academic freedom and freedom of expression are fundamental,” he said.

Likewise, some ILR students defended the associations drawn by the cartoons, saying they contribute to discussions of racism and sexism that are pertinent to the labor movement.

“The swastika is a symbol of hate, and it draws really powerful parallels to white supremacist hatred in the south and the ways in which that hatred has been mobilized using the confederate flag,” said Allison Considine ’17, one of the student organizers of the event.

In the past month, racial tensions and protests have erupted on a number of campuses around the country. Events at the University of Missouri have captured headlines, including stories of students using the swastika as a symbol of racial intimidation.

“I presumed the students at Cornell would be aware of these events since they have to do with the campus life of other students around the country and would be able to understand that I was trying to speak to current events as they were happening,” Huck said. “Cartoons are pretty much of the moment, so if you don’t know what’s going on in the world around you you’re going to not understand a lot of cartoons, or you’re going to misunderstand a lot of cartoons.”

As of Friday morning, the confederate flag work was missing from the exhibit.

“I allowed the University to display my work and it was treated with pronounced disrespect,” Huck responded.

Konopacki also expressed his “dismay” that the exhibit proved so controversial.

“I was very surprised that a school with such an esteemed reputation would be so squeamish about political speech,” he said.

At the heart of the artists’ frustration was that rather than engaging with the subject matter, students opted to shut down the conversation.

“The person who took the cartoon was not without an avenue of dissent, but they chose to end the conversation by removing the cartoon,” Huck said. “Being offended is not the worst thing to happen to you. Being offended is the beginning of a conversation, not the end of a conversation.”

The pair plans on including their experience with political discomfort on Cornell’s campus in future cartoons and will reflect on it in their discourse with other audiences.

“That is exactly the way to have this conversation; lots of voices weighing in and everyone gets their voices heard,” Huck said. “That’s how freedom of speech works, and that is a great thing. That is the single greatest thing about this nation — that is what makes America America.”

  • Abe ’14

    *School of Industrial and Labor Relations

    Actually, just ILR School now


    Come on

    • Are You Serious

      You’re expecting too much from Sun writers.

      • Abe ’14

        I know, it’s just so sad sometimes, though.

  • Abe ’14

    “We’ve invited people who’ve been much more provocative than the two we invited this time,” Bronfenbrenner said, “but I think the times have changed so that people on the right are emboldened, because of perhaps by the Tea Party or others.” She added that “there’s a sense that the First Amendment doesn’t apply.”

    Wait – is Bronfenbrenner saying that the Tea Party is a movement that is trying to say that the First Amendment doesn’t apply? Is she crazy? Why didn’t see cite Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street or the liberal nuts at Missouri and Yale. She cites the TEA PARTY!?

    What is she talking about? The Tea Party has spoken out against people INFRINGING on their First Amendment rights.

    I guess Watters had a point

    • Netizen

      The TeaParty doesn’t care about anyone’s rights but their own. They want to PRETEND that people are infringing on their rights, but they’re lying, possibly to themselves as well. No, there is no RIGHT to have government promote YOUR religion as the Officially Correct one. No, telling your city that the city can’t put up a cross or a nativity display is not infringing on your rights. YOU can put up whatever display you’d like with your own dime on your own time, the CITY cannot. Yes, the TeaParty – along with Donald Trump – IS saying that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to Muslims or atheists or anyone they don’t like.

      • Batista

        Wrong. The IRS specifically targeted Conservative Tea Party groups and actively violated their rights and persecuted them to silence their opposition to the liberal fascist Administration. Government power to take everyone’s rights is increasing daily. By the way the blowing up and shooting people is not free speech. Continue to dance with glee as institutions silence conservative speech to your benefit, and just keep hoping when the wheel turns we conservatives defend your rights to be ignorant as we have in the past. Because if Obama, Hillary and their group, who only care about money and power, win once they destroy us you are next because by then they will not need you anymore.

        • A troll

          Actually, later investigations found that the IRS agents searched for lots of terms, many of which were far more likely to “catch” liberal and left groups than conservatives.

          • Batista

            Do not know who fed you that misinformation, but drinking the kool aid and then repeating the misinformation your masters feed you does not change the truth. The IRS union member employees were targeting conservative groups. They did this to try and keep in power the liberal masters who give them do nothing jobs from which they cannot be fired, no matter how incompetent they are.

      • Abe ’14

        And whose rights does Black Lives Matters care about?

  • Double Standard 2015

    The University minority students would be appalled and the protests would come if one were to display any type of cartoon that depicted anything of the sort if it contained a negative depiction of the Black Lives Matter movement. If the cartoons depicted negative and offense cartoons aimed at the liberal leaning faculty, would the result be the same ? History says it would not. So pathetic that this day and age only the liberals can claim to be offended.

    • Cornell Alum 1983

      Agreed. This is typically the reaction (Maoist demands to “reeducate”) to any exercise of first amendment rights which hurt the feelings of protected classes. Typically followed by apologies by said college’s administration.

      “President [Biddy] Martin must issue a statement to the Amherst College community at large that states we do not tolerate the actions of student(s) who posted the ‘All Lives Matter’ posters, and the ‘Free Speech’ posters,” the list of demands says. “Also let the student body know that it was racially insensitive to the students of color on our college campus and beyond who are victim to racial harassment and death threats; alert them that Student Affairs may require them to go through the Disciplinary Process if a formal complaint is filed, and that they will be required to attend extensive training for racial and cultural competency.”

  • Frmrgrad

    Increasingly clear: students are becoming coddled weaklings.

    Thankfully these Professionally Offended are still the minority of CU students. But all the same, it’s unfortunate they tarnish the name of a great public University.

  • Pingback: Cornell Prof: Blame Tea Party for Backlash Against Cartoons Depicting GOP as Terrorists, Molesters()

  • Sam ’14

    I’m embarrassed of telling people I graduated from ILR. What a joke program and institution. The most valuable part of my ILR education was the fact that I could take classes outside of ILR.

    They should just rename it the “School of Socialism, Communism, and Liberal Bias for the Professionally Offended.”

    You could get the same education from ILR by just reading through the crazy posts on tumblr from the “social justice” psychopaths. New York State should stop subsidizing this stupid program and Cornell should refund the tuition for every student that wasted while being indoctrinated by these nut jobs.

    • A liberal graduate student

      “They should just rename it the “School of Socialism, Communism, and Liberal Bias for the Professionally Offended.”

      That’s funny. As a grad student here at Cornell, I don’t see the ILR School that way at all. More and more it’s about churning out people to work in corporate HR, essentially a state-side business school. If you look at where people are getting internships, at least the graduate students, you’ll see that this is the case. I guess they must be doing something right if people on both sides of the aisle wish it was otherwise.

      For all that, though, the people I’ve met who study and teach in the school are in no way “nut jobs.”

  • Nope

    This article misses the point. These pictures were displayed in the hallways as if they were ILR’s opinion. Students of non-Leftist backgrounds already feel marginalized by ILR — is equating the GOP to ISIS going to make them even less likely to participate in this college. Yes.

    ILR, put up cartoons by a Right0wing cartoonist and then we will talk. Hypocrites.

  • excuse me

    “white supremacist hatred in the south” — the South is a diverse place with diverse viewpoints. Your idea of “white supremacy”, which is apparently pervasive and our top issue according to the biased leftists in the ILR School, would probably be applicable everywhere. In Liberal terms that you can understand: the American Left continues to systematically marginalize the South. This crap and this language simply serves to polarize our nation even further.

  • Statement from the board of the American Association Of Editorial Cartoonists:

    Long-time AAEC members Gary Huck and Mike Konopacki are currently showing their cartoons in an exhibition at Cornell University, where they have come under attack from conservative and liberal critics on campus and off-campus.

    Some have complained about the use of certain symbols, such as swastikas and Confederate flags. Others have implied rape imagery. Still others note that the cartoons solely attack the GOP.

    Political cartoons employ imagery to make a point. Sometimes the meaning of the imagery is clear, sometime it is more ambiguous. But to willfully project an unintended meaning to a cartoon is offensive to the artist and the free expression of ideas.

    In the case of Mr. Huck and Mr. Konopacki, there is absolutely nothing in the use of their imagery that is anything other than within the finest traditions of American editorial cartooning.

    Mr. Huck and Mr. Konopacki are owed the full exposition of their work at Cornell, attendees of the exhibition deserve to see all of their work with no censorship, and the AAEC Board urges Cornell to be mindful that a university is a marketplace of ideas, and not a place for censorship or fear.

    The AAEC Board of Directors strongly supports Mr. Huck and Mr. Konopacki.

    President: Jack Ohman, The Sacramento Bee
    President-Elect: Adam Zyglis, The Buffalo News
    Vice President: Jen Sorensen, Self-Syndicated
    Secretary-Treasurer: R.C. Harvey, Perpendicular Pronoun Press
    Board of Directors:

    JP Trostle, Freelance
    Dan Nott, The Gabbler
    Phil Hands, Wisconsin State Journal

    • Abe ’14

      Where’s the cartoon depicting an ass, then? (Feel free to interpret the “ambiguity” in this? Do I mean the liberal donkey? Or do I mean Obama?)

    • Cornell Alum 1983

      Let’s see what happens if an artist with university cooperation places art in a university building mocking the absurdity of the Black Lives Matter movement. That would be interesting.

      • Batista

        I think we all know exactly what would happen. If students were involved. They would be expelled or at the very least suspended. It is unfortunate the “victims” revel in oppressing and discriminating against others. Some day they may wake up and realize how hypocritical their actions are, but those who live by the sword also die by the sword and instead they may end up facing the backlash of their overreaching. Unfortunately until something changes the tyranny of the “minority” will continue and many innocents will continue to pay the price of the “victims” demand for a pound of flesh.

  • Pingback: Cornell art exhibit bashes the GOP, prof blames Tea Party for student complaints - The College Fix()

  • Batista

    Listen the left will never acknowledge the mistake of the South was not to free the slaves then declare independence. If they had done that there would have been no dispute that the war was really about State’s rights, the British would have intervened, and we would not be under the thumb of an oppressive Federal Government taking away more of our rights every day. With that said, ignorant photos as those described maligning the GOP and Confederacy are protected speech. The fact that Unions and liberal goons would never stand up for conservative free speech should not stop us from protecting their rights. They are the hypocrites we must be better then them.

    • Abe ’14

      I’m not saying “take them down.” I’m saying, “Hey, ILR professors, respect your students..liberal and conservative.”

      • Batista

        Understood, but it is not going to happen. The liberal agenda is not about truth or honesty. It is lead by sophisticated people who profit and grow rich and powerful by using propaganda to trick the ignorant into increasing the elite’s power. The only way to fight it is to stand for unfettered speech wherever it is attacked. The first amendment is the strongest bastion to freedom. The second amendment is the fall back when the first fails.

  • Grad Student

    I’m all for freedom of speech and generally feel that this society is much too sensitive and concerned about being PC. With that said, there is a significant distinction between cartoons that challenge political beliefs and those that depict hate symbols. No student should have to walk into school and encounter a swastika. Especially, when the ILR School did nothing to provide any forum to further discuss the issues that these art pieces brought up or even suggest to the passing students that these were sanctioned art pieces and not hate messages.

    • Ward

      … and what about any picture demeaning women with the the suggestion of “unwanted” sexual actions (i.e. trunk up skirt) … particularly given the amount of unreported rape/sexual abuse that occurs on college campuses today.

  • Batista

    Wasn’t it a swastika in Missouri that started all this crap? Oh right the liberal elite victims can use it but if anyone else does it is hate speech. Just like certain people can use the N word and glorify raping women in RAP songs but other cannot. Just pointing out the hypocrisy. With that said let them stand anyone who gets upset by a picture or a uncomfortable comment is no ready for college and should go home to their mama.

  • Ward

    Remember when your parents smoked and you put up with it but also realized it was not a healthy choice … so you ended up not smoking yourself.

    Perhaps a similar trend develops here. The more Cornell promotes “one-sided” political thinking, the more the students will begin to realize that there is another way.

    Can only hope Cornell continues to admit bright, independent thinkers.

    • Batista

      These fringe groups always involve less than 100 people. Needless to say this leaves thousands who do not support their agenda. The students are not the problem it is the administration that bows down to this fringe fascist groups that give relevance to a group who would be dismissed, and rightfully so, as a group of bozos. They will find out how clueless they are when they enter the real world, then either go into government, academia or University administration. Rinse, wash, repeat.

  • critic

    Freedom of speech … the Internet continues to expose it as ultimately a bad idea. Lots of hateful, negative, reactionary, biased, and even racist comment here. Opinions are not facts, and are increasingly rarely based on them. The new regime doesn’t make any of this ‘right’, either. Think of what the idea of America is, and try to live up to that.