The Korean American Coalition - Los Angeles (KAC) stands with the Asian and Asian American communities in condemning the article (“Contracting for sex in the Pacific War”) and op-ed written by Professor J. Mark Ramseyer, Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, which attempts to undermine and deny the lived experiences of comfort women who were forced into Japanese military sexual slavery before and during World War II.
Professor Ramseyer’s revisionist claims of comfort women as voluntary prostitutes are a grave distortion of historical facts, as there is overwhelming evidence, living proof, and even UN recognition that proves the existence of systematic sexual slavery. He fails to consider the Japanese government’s deliberate efforts to erase this history in their demand of the dismantling of comfort women memorial statues, the removal of any mention of comfort women in Japanese textbooks and their attempts to do so with U.S. textbooks, and position to steer clear of official government recognition and compensation.
About 200,000 women, primarily from Korea, but also from other Asian countries, including the Philippines, China, Singapore, Myanmar, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, and Taiwan, were forced into systematic sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese military during World War II. Through coercion, violence, and deception, these women and young girls were abducted and forced into sexual slavery in inhumane conditions. Post-World War II, comfort women survivors suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, sexually transmitted diseases, infertility, and damaged reproductive systems. The majority of these women and girls faced intense stigma upon return, and whether it be due to trauma, shame, or desire for privacy, many were reluctant to speak about their experiences. In his article, Ramseyer utilizes terms like “women,” “prostitutes,” and “contracts,” to neutralize the the horrific accounts of organized sexual violence against young girls, teenagers and women who were kidnapped, raped, and severely abused. In doing so, he undermines the accounts of survivors who spoke up about their horrific experiences. Furthermore, he deliberately dismisses a diverse range of existing scholarship on a settled historical account.
KAC recognizes the value of academic freedom. However, “academic freedom” is not an excuse for indefensible scholarship. Publications in respected journals carry the imprimatur of credibility. Issues subject to reasonable debate are fair game for academic publication. Publishing demonstrable falsehoods, however, falls outside this scope. By publishing this article, Elsevier and the International Review of Law and Economics, convey the message that the forced slavery of women during World War II is not a settled fact, but rather a supposition open to debate. No publication should give credence or legitimacy to this level of blatant falsehood and historical revisionism. Rather than simply delaying print publication of J. Mark Ramseyer’s problematic paper, KAC calls for the complete withdrawal and condemnation of this paper.