North and South Korea don’t agree on many things, but they have spoken up with one voice against a Harvard professor’s disputed claims over women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops, known as “comfort women,” during World War II.
Ramseyer, Mitsubishi professor of Japanese legal studies at Harvard Law School, claimed in a recent journal article that “comfort women” were not sex slaves but prostitutes who were involved in “consenting, contractual process” where they could negotiate for wages.
His claims have been disputed by historians in South Korea and the United States. Carter J. Eckert, Harvard professor of Korean history, told the Harvard Crimson that Ramseyer’s article is “woefully deficient, empirically, historically, and morally.”
The North Korean outlet called Ramseyer’s claims an insult to victims, who were mostly Korean and Chinese.
“Ramseyer is a Harvard professor masqueraded as an academic and has gone beyond supporting Japanese reactionaries’ shameless and ruthless acts to cover up their past wrongdoings and insulted victicms of sex slavery as voluntary prostitutes,” the outlet said.
The Korean Association of Harvard Law School issued a statement calling Ramseyer’s claims “revisionist” and “factually inaccurate and misleading.”
In South Korea, civil organizations and high school students have taken to the streets to condemn the professor, demanding a withdrawal and an apology to the women. South Korean politicians have also criticized the Harvard professor.
According to the Harvard Crimson, Lee Yong-soo, a surviving “comfort woman” and activist, called on Seoul and Tokyo to bring the issue of forced sexual slavery to the International Court of Justice for resolution.
Relations between the Koreas have deteriorated after the North’s denuclearization talks with the Trump administration fell apart in 2019.
In June, Pyongyang blew up a joint liaison office with the South, citing Seoul’s inability to stop activists from sending propaganda leaflets into the North. In December, the South Korean parliament passed legislation to criminalize such action.
On Monday, the 102nd anniversary of the March 1st independence movement against Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said the Tokyo Olympics this summer could reopen talks between the Koreas.
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