Council of Korean Americans Rejects Erasure of the Experiences of Comfort Women by Harvard Professor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date Published: February 11, 2021
Washington, DC — The Council of Korean Americans (CKA), a national association of Korean American leaders, stands in solidarity with the Korean students, alumni, and community at Harvard Law School following the publication of an article and op-ed claiming that the experiences of Korean comfort women during World War II were “pure fiction.” CKA denounces the revisionist assertions made by Professor J. Mark Ramseyer, Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies at Harvard Law School, which characterized Korean comfort women, who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II, as individuals who freely entered into contracts without coercion.
“The Korean American community is deeply offended by the assertions in these articles that attempt to erase the lived and real experiences of our community,” said Dr. Abraham Kim, Executive Director of CKA. “The experiences of Korean comfort women are an accepted and documented historical example of trafficking and forced sexual slavery during World War II. It is irresponsible for Professor Ramseyer and the International Review of Law and Economics to publish such assertions without credible support and without adequately addressing the overwhelming countervailing evidence.”
“CKA joins the Korean Association of Harvard Law School, allies, alumni, and scholars around the world in recognizing the painful impact these characterizations have on the Korean community,” continued Dr. Kim. “We are deeply committed to ideals of academic integrity, and this piece falls well short of those ideals. We call upon the International Review of Law and Economics to raise its standards for publication of scholarship and for both the Journal and Professor Ramseyer to retract these articles. Furthermore, we call upon the Harvard community to take steps to ensure that Korean students are supported and part of a welcoming environment that recognizes and appreciates their history.”
The Korean Association of Harvard Law School, joined by a number of allied student organizations, issued a statement condemning the “deliberate erasure of human rights and international war crimes” in Professor Ramseyer’s articles. CKA commends these students for challenging this false narrative.
Connie Chung Joe, CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, a CKA member and expert in women’s rights and gender-based violence, added, “I am deeply troubled by Professor Ramseyer’s portrayal of World War II comfort women as prostitutes and his refusal to recognize their true identities as survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking. Indentured servitude in which impoverished women under a colonial regime were required to perform sexual acts until they were released from their debt bondage is clearly recognized as a form of human trafficking under international standards. What Professor Ramseyer fails to recognize is that when you have the exploitation and subjugation of women for sexual acts, you no longer have an arm’s length business transaction by free agents, as he tries to argue in his article.”
Dr. Bonnie B.C. Oh, Distinguished Professor of Korean Studies (Ret.) at Georgetown University, a CKA member and scholar of the subject, states “I strongly object to Professor Ramseyer’s article. In fact, the premise of his article is widely acknowledged to be wrong by numerous scholars who have studied this issue. His claims are misleading, inaccurate, and at odds with overwhelming historical evidence and eye-witness testimonies. While his academic credentials suggest expertise in Japanese law and culture, he has failed to meet basic criteria as a scholar. He ignores a substantial body of work by respected experts on the subject of the Japanese military sexual slavery during the Pacific War and WWII. He sweeps aside the record, including the fact that many of these girls were underage, they were kidnapped, and the brothels were supervised by and set up for the Japanese military, to fit his theory of legal contract. His revisionist conclusions are based on incomplete research and poor scholarship.”
The experiences of the comfort women have been extensively documented by scholars of diverse fields and international human rights organizations. Approximately 200,000 women from Korea and other countries occupied by the Japanese were forced into service at military-run and affiliated brothels across the Pacific during World War II. These women, often young teenagers, were kidnapped or coerced through false offers of other jobs. When in the brothels, they faced inhumane conditions and repeated acts of sexual and physical assault. Only 16 Korean survivors, in their 80s and 90s, are alive today.
- Korean Association of Harvard Law School
- Harvard Crimson: Harvard Professor’s Paper Claiming ‘Comfort Women’ in Imperial Japan Were Voluntarily Employed Stokes International Controversy
- NBCNews: Who are the ‘comfort women,’ and why are U.S.-based memorials for them controversial?
- Norma, Caroline. The Japanese Comfort Women and Sexual Slavery during the China and Pacific Wars. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2015.
- Qiu, Peipei. Chinese Comfort Women: Testimonies from Imperial Japan’s Sex Slaves. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
- Tanaka, Yuki. Japan’s Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery and Prostitution during World War II and the U.S. Occupation. New York: Routledge, 2002.
- Yoshiaki, Yoshimi. Comfort Women: Sexual Slavery in the Japanese Military During World War II. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.
About the Council of Korean Americans:
The Council of Korean Americans is a national nonprofit organization. Our mission is to advance the national voice, interest, and influence of the Korean American community through education, collaboration, and leadership development.
For Media Inquiries, contact:
Ruth Song, 202-660-0900, firstname.lastname@example.org