Harvard Academic Claims 'Comfort Women' Chose to Be Sex Workers

J. Mark Ramseyer's article condemned by governments, historians
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2021 1:00 PM CST
Harvard Academic Claims 'Comfort Women' Chose to Be Sex Workers
In this 2017 photo, former "comfort woman" Lee Yong-soo, left, who was forced to serve for the Japanese troops as a sex slave during World War II, shouts slogans during a rally to mark the anniversary of the 1919 Korean uprising against Japanese colonial rule.   (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

(Newser) – Historians agree that Japan forced many thousands of women into sexual slavery in World War II, euphemistically calling them "comfort women." Harvard law professor J. Mark Ramseyer, however, has caused an uproar by claiming that the women were actually sex workers who had chosen to work in military brothels, the Guardian reports. His recent academic paper, "Contracting for sex in the Pacific War," has been condemned by US lawmakers, fellow academics, and the governments of North Korea, South Korea, and China, although some far-right lawmakers in Japan have expressed support, reports the Harvard Crimson. In an article for a right-wing Japanese newspaper, Ramseyer described the widely accepted view of the comfort women system as "pure fiction."

Ramseyer is a professor of Japanese legal studies at Harvard Law School, and fellow Harvard academics have been among his strongest critics, the AP reports. Scholars say they have looked at Ramseyer's sources and found no evidence of the contracts he claims the women entered into with the Japanese military. "We do not see how Ramseyer can make credible claims, in extremely emphatic wording, about contracts he has not read,” Harvard historians Andrew Gordon and Carter Eckert said in a statement. More than 1,000 economists have signed a letter condemning the paper for misusing economic theory "as a cover to legitimize horrific atrocities." The International Review of Law and Economics says it has suspended plans to publish Ramseyer's article, which appeared online in December. (Read more comfort women stories.)

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