A Harvard Professor Known as ‘Consolation Ladies’ Prostitutes. One Pushed Again.

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SEOUL, South Korea — The scholars and the survivor have been divided by two generations and seven,000 miles, however they met on Zoom to debate a standard objective: turning a Harvard professor’s extensively disputed claims about sexual slavery throughout World Conflict II right into a teachable second.

A latest tutorial journal article by the professor — wherein he described as “prostitutes” the Korean and different girls compelled to serve Japan’s troops — prompted an outcry in South Korea and amongst students in america.

It additionally supplied an opportunity, on the Zoom name final week, for the ageing survivor of the Japanese Imperial Military’s brothels to inform her story to a gaggle of Harvard college students, together with her case for why Japan ought to subject a full apology and face worldwide prosecution.

“The latest remarks by the professor at Harvard are one thing that it’s best to all ignore,” Lee Yong-soo, a 92-year-old in South Korea and considered one of only a handful of so-called consolation girls nonetheless residing, told the students.

However the remarks have been a “blessing in disguise” as a result of they created an enormous controversy, added Ms. Lee, who was kidnapped by Japanese troopers throughout World Conflict II and raped repeatedly. “So that is form of a get up name.”

The dispute over the tutorial paper has echoes of the early Nineteen Nineties, a time when the world was first starting to listen to the voices of survivors of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery in Asia — traumas that the area’s conservative patriarchal cultures had lengthy downplayed.

Now, survivors’ testimony drives a lot of the tutorial narrative on the subject. But many students say that conservative forces are as soon as once more making an attempt to marginalize the survivors.

“That is so startling, 30 years later, to be dragged again, as a result of within the meantime survivors from a variety of nations discovered a voice,” Alexis Dudden, a historian of Japan and Korea on the College of Connecticut who has interviewed the ladies.

The uproar started after a tutorial journal’s web site printed an article in December wherein J. Mark Ramseyer, a Harvard Legislation Faculty professor, argued that the ladies have been “prostitutes” who had willingly entered into indenture contracts.

A world chorus of historians referred to as for the article to be retracted, saying that his arguments ignored extensive historical evidence and sounded extra like a web page from Japan’s far-right playbook. A bunch of greater than 1,900 economists wrote this week that the article used sport principle, legislation and economics as “cowl to legitimize horrific atrocities.”

The Korean Worldwide Scholar Affiliation at Harvard has additionally demanded an apology from Mr. Ramseyer, expressing concern that the college’s title “might lend credibility to the argument” that Japan’s wartime authorities was not chargeable for the trafficking and enslavement of ladies. A petition with related language has been signed by a whole lot of Harvard college students.

A number of students famous that Mr. Ramseyer’s argument was flawed as a result of he didn’t produce any signed contracts with Korean girls as proof — and that specializing in contracts within the first place was misleading as a result of the ladies, a lot of whom have been youngsters, didn’t have free company.

Mr. Ramseyer’s paper additionally ignored a 1996 United Nations report that concluded that consolation girls, who got here from various international locations, principally in Asia, have been intercourse slaves, mentioned Yang Kee-ho, a professor of Japanese research at Sungkonghoe College in Seoul.

“There are numerous particulars within the paper which contradict details and deform fact,” he added.

The paper, “Contracting for Intercourse within the Pacific Conflict,” argues that the Japanese Military created requirements for licensing so-called consolation stations round Asia throughout World Conflict II as a method of stopping the unfold of venereal illness.

Mr. Ramseyer, an skilled on Japanese legislation, wrote that “prostitutes” who labored within the brothels signed contracts that have been much like these utilized in Tokyo brothels, however with shorter phrases and better pay to mirror the hazard of working in battle zones.

Mr. Ramseyer declined an interview request. He has beforehand argued that counting on survivors’ testimony is problematic as a result of a number of the girls have modified their accounts over time. “Claims about enslaved Korean consolation girls are traditionally unfaithful,” he wrote in Japan Ahead, an English-language web site affiliated with a right-wing Japanese newspaper, final month.

The Worldwide Assessment of Legislation and Economics, which printed Mr. Ramseyer’s latest paper on-line, posted an “expression of concern” this month saying that it was investigating the paper’s historic proof. However the journal’s editorial workforce mentioned by way of a spokesman that the article would nonetheless be printed within the March version and was “thought-about last.”

One other publication, the European Journal of Law and Economics, mentioned this week that it was investigating issues that had been raised a couple of paper by Mr. Ramseyer that it printed final week concerning the experiences of Korean migrants in Japan.

Mr. Ramseyer’s supporters embody a gaggle of six Japan-based teachers who advised the editors of the Worldwide Assessment of Legislation and Economics in a letter that the article that prompted the latest outcry was “properly inside the tutorial and diplomatic mainstream” and supported by work from students in Japan, South Korea and america. They didn’t title any particular students.

One tutorial who signed the letter, Kanji Katsuoka, mentioned in an interview that he had solely learn the summary of the “Contracting for Intercourse” article, however felt that the time period “prostitute” was acceptable as a result of the ladies had been paid for his or her providers.

“Harvard College is the highest college in america,” added Mr. Katsuoka, a lecturer at Meisei College and the secretary-general of a right-wing analysis group. “In the event that they lose freedom of speech, I’ve to guage that no freedom of speech exists in america.”

Three a long time in the past, when survivors like Ms. Lee started talking publicly about their sexual slavery for Japan’s troops, they have been embraced by a nascent feminist motion in East Asia that prioritized the fitting of ladies to say their very own historical past.

Though the testimonials prompted an official apology from Japan in 1993, the difficulty stays deeply contentious.

The governments of Japan and South Korea agreed to resolve it in 2015, when Japan expressed accountability, apologized anew to the ladies and promised to arrange an $8.3 million fund to assist present old-age care. A number of the survivors accepted a portion of the funds, however Ms. Lee and some others rejected the overture, saying it failed to offer official reparations or specify Japan’s obligation.

Extra lately, folks on Japan’s political proper, together with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have insisted that the Korean girls weren’t intercourse slaves as a result of there is no such thing as a proof that they have been bodily compelled into the brothels.

Survivors have lengthy challenged that declare. Ms. Lee has said that Japanese troopers dragged her from her dwelling when she was a teen, overlaying her mouth so she couldn’t name to her mom.

Ji Soo Janet Park, a Harvard legislation scholar who helped set up the latest Zoom occasion with Ms. Lee, mentioned it was designed to fight “denialists and revisionists” who sought to erase the accounts of wartime sexual slavery.

“We’re the subsequent era that’s chargeable for ensuring that this stays part of historical past,” mentioned Ms. Park, 27, whose undergraduate thesis explored how memorials to former intercourse slaves form Korean-American id.

In an interview this week, Ms. Lee, the survivor, mentioned that she was dismayed to see folks in Japan echo Mr. Ramseyer’s “absurd” remarks. She mentioned that she had not given up her marketing campaign to have the difficulty prosecuted on the Worldwide Court docket of Justice.

“As my final work, I wish to make clear the matter on the I.C.J.,” she mentioned, referring to the court docket. “After I die and meet the victims who’ve already handed away, I can inform them that I resolved this subject.”

Youmi Kim reported from Seoul and Mike Ives from Hong Kong. Jennifer Schuessler contributed reporting from New York and Makiko Inoue from Tokyo.

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