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Harvard Law students decry professor's paper on 'comfort women'

Activists in South Korea have raised awareness about “comfort women” forced to serve in Japan’s wartime brothels and have demanded a formal apology from the Japanese government. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Activists in South Korea have raised awareness about “comfort women” forced to serve in Japan’s wartime brothels and have demanded a formal apology from the Japanese government. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Students at Harvard Law School denounced an article by a law professor who described the recruitment of "comfort women" as a consenting, contractual process, as anger grows in South Korea over the publication of Mark Ramseyer's work on wartime sex slaves.

The Korean Association Harvard Law School said in a statement on Thursday Ramseyer, the Mitsubishi professor of Japanese legal studies at Harvard Law School, made claims in his article, "Contracting for sex in the Pacific War," that ignores Korean scholarship and primary sources.

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The paper was published in the International Review of Law and Economics.

Ramseyer "claims, without sufficient evidence, that the Japanese military sex slaves were willing prostitutes who were able to 'negotiate' for substantial wages," the students said.

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"He also makes multiple assertions that the comfort women story is 'pure fiction'."

The students charged Ramseyer with ignoring research from the United Nations and Amnesty International, which "conclusively found that the "comfort women" were coerced, kidnapped, or forced by the Japanese government."

"The Japanese government itself acknowledged as part of the Kono Statement that 'the then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of comfort stations'," students said.

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In their statement, KAHLS and students with the Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Students Association and La Alianza at Harvard Law School said up to 200,000 women and girls were "forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military, from not only Korea, but also China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Netherlands, East Timor, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma."

On Friday, South Korean commenters on social media platforms expressed their "disgust" with Ramseyer's characterization of the women as prostitutes. Victims have said they were beaten and raped by soldiers daily while suffering from malnutrition.

South Korean newspaper Hankyoreh said in an editorial statement Ramseyer's professorship was created with a $1 million grant from Mitsubishi. The Japanese company conscripted Koreans into forced labor and committed crimes during World War II, the article said.

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