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Erotic photos burned after sex slave row
Updated: 2004-02-20 09:11

The South Korean publisher behind a plan to sell erotic photographs depicting Asian sex slaves who served Japanese soldiers during World War Two has publicly burned the images in a bid to quell a firestorm of protests.

The saga began with a plan by Netian Entertainment to sell on the Internet semi-nude photographs and a video of actress and former Miss Korea Lee Seung-yeon posing submissively in wartime brothel garb under the theme of "comfort women".

"Comfort women" is the Japanese euphemism for the estimated 200,000 mostly Korean women who were conscripted to serve in battle zone brothels across Asia run by Japan's government during the war.

Facing protests by surviving sex slaves, the 35-year-old Lee visited the residence of seven of the elderly women and tearfully apologised on her knees.

The women rejected Lee's apology, gave her a stern history lecture and told her they would accept her apology only when the photos were destroyed. One of the pictures showed Lee cowering before a male model dressed as a Japanese soldier.

Activists for the women vowed to start a campaign to end Lee's show business career.

Netian Entertainment head Park Ji-woo, who directed the project held a news conference on Thursday at which he showed photos shot in the Philippines in an effort to demonstrate what he said was the "sincerity" behind the project.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," said Park, crouched on his knees as he burned sheets of photographs. He had shaved his head on Monday in a traditional show of repentance.

Resentment over Japan's 1910-45 occupation of the Korea peninsula remains strong in South Korea -- even though the two neighbours now trade extensively and cooperate diplomatically through their bilateral alliances with the United States.

South Korea last year relaxed 60-year-old restrictions on imports of Japanese films, music and cultural items. This month, Seoul hosted demonstration sumo matches in the first display of Japan's traditional wrestling since the colonial era.

A dwindling group of elderly South Korean and other Asian survivors from among the comfort women have been fighting an uphill legal battle for the past decade to win an official Japanese government apology. About a dozen women protest outside Japan's Seoul embassy each week.

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