SEOUL, South Korea — The scholars and the survivor had been divided by two generations and seven,000 miles, however they met on Zoom to debate a standard aim: turning a Harvard professor’s broadly disputed claims about sexual slavery throughout World Struggle II right into a teachable second.
A latest educational journal article by the professor — during which he described as “prostitutes” the Korean and different ladies pressured to serve Japan’s troops — prompted an outcry in South Korea and amongst students in the US.
It additionally provided an opportunity, on the Zoom name final week, for the growing older 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 concern a full apology and face worldwide prosecution.
“The latest remarks by the professor at Harvard are one thing that you need to all ignore,” Lee Yong-soo, a 92-year-old in South Korea and one in all only a handful of so-called consolation ladies nonetheless residing, told the students.
However the remarks had 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 Struggle 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 attempting 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 an educational journal’s web site revealed an article in December during which J. Mark Ramseyer, a Harvard Legislation College professor, argued that the ladies had been “prostitutes” who had willingly entered into indenture contracts.
A global chorus of historians known 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 idea, regulation 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 identify “might lend credibility to the argument” that Japan’s wartime authorities was not liable for the trafficking and enslavement of ladies. A petition with related language has been signed by lots of 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 ladies as proof — and that specializing in contracts within the first place was misleading as a result of the ladies, a lot of whom had been youngsters, didn’t have free company.
Mr. Ramseyer’s paper additionally ignored a 1996 United Nations report that concluded that consolation ladies, who got here from numerous nations, largely in Asia, had 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 information and warp fact,” he added.
The paper, “Contracting for Intercourse within the Pacific Struggle,” argues that the Japanese Military created requirements for licensing so-called consolation stations round Asia throughout World Struggle II as a method of stopping the unfold of venereal illness.
Mr. Ramseyer, an professional on Japanese regulation, wrote that “prostitutes” who labored within the brothels signed contracts that had been much like these utilized in Tokyo brothels, however with shorter phrases and better pay to mirror the hazard of working in struggle zones.
Mr. Ramseyer declined an interview request. He has beforehand argued that counting on survivors’ testimony is problematic as a result of a few of the ladies have modified their accounts through the years. “Claims about enslaved Korean consolation ladies are traditionally unfaithful,” he wrote in Japan Ahead, an English-language web site affiliated with a right-wing Japanese newspaper, final month.
The Worldwide Evaluate of Legislation and Economics, which revealed 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 crew mentioned by means of a spokesman that the article would nonetheless be revealed 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 few paper by Mr. Ramseyer that it revealed final week concerning the experiences of Korean migrants in Japan.
Mr. Ramseyer’s supporters embody a gaggle of six Japan-based lecturers who informed the editors of the Worldwide Evaluate of Legislation and Economics in a letter that the article that precipitated the latest outcry was “nicely inside the educational and diplomatic mainstream” and supported by work from students in Japan, South Korea and the US. They didn’t identify any particular students.
One educational 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 faculty in the US,” 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 evaluate that no freedom of speech exists in the US.”
Three a long time in the past, when survivors like Ms. Lee started talking publicly about their sexual slavery for Japan’s troops, they had been embraced by a nascent feminist motion in East Asia that prioritized the appropriate of ladies to say their very own historical past.
Although the testimonials prompted an official apology from Japan in 1993, the problem stays deeply contentious.
The governments of Japan and South Korea agreed to resolve it in 2015, when Japan expressed duty, apologized anew to the ladies and promised to arrange an $8.3 million fund to assist present old-age care. Among the survivors accepted a portion of the funds, however Ms. Lee and some others rejected the overture, saying it failed to supply official reparations or specify Japan’s obligation.
Extra not too long ago, folks on Japan’s political proper, together with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have insisted that the Korean ladies weren’t intercourse slaves as a result of there is no such thing as a proof that they had been bodily pressured into the brothels.
Survivors have lengthy challenged that declare. Ms. Lee has said that Japanese troopers dragged her from her house when she was a youngster, overlaying her mouth so she couldn’t name to her mom.
Ji Soo Janet Park, a Harvard regulation pupil who helped arrange 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 liable 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 problem prosecuted on the Worldwide Courtroom of Justice.
“As my final work, I want to make clear the matter on the I.C.J.,” she mentioned, referring to the courtroom. “Once I die and meet the victims who’ve already handed away, I can inform them that I resolved this concern.”
Youmi Kim reported from Seoul and Mike Ives from Hong Kong. Jennifer Schuessler contributed reporting from New York and Makiko Inoue from Tokyo.