SEOUL, South Korea — The college students and the survivor have been divided by two generations and seven,000 miles, however they met on Zoom to debate a standard purpose: turning a Harvard professor’s extensively disputed claims about sexual slavery throughout World War II right into a teachable second.
A latest educational journal article by the professor — through which he described as “prostitutes” the Korean and different ladies compelled to serve Japan’s troops — prompted an outcry in South Korea and amongst students within the United States.
It additionally supplied an opportunity, on the Zoom name final week, for the getting older survivor of the Japanese Imperial Army’s brothels to inform her story to a bunch of Harvard college students, together with her case for why Japan ought to problem a full apology and face worldwide prosecution.
“The recent remarks by the professor at Harvard are something that you should all ignore,” Lee Yong-soo, a 92-year-old in South Korea and considered one of only a handful of so-called consolation ladies nonetheless residing, told the students.
But 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 War II and raped repeatedly. “So this is kind of a wake up call.”
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. Yet many students say that conservative forces are as soon as once more attempting to marginalize the survivors.
“This is so startling, 30 years later, to be dragged back, because in the meantime survivors from a wide range of countries found a voice,” Alexis Dudden, a historian of Japan and Korea on the University of Connecticut who has interviewed the ladies.
The uproar started after a tutorial journal’s web site printed an article in December through which J. Mark Ramseyer, a Harvard Law School professor, argued that the ladies have been “prostitutes” who had willingly entered into indenture contracts.
An worldwide 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 gaggle of greater than 1,900 economists wrote this week that the article used recreation principle, regulation and economics as “cover to legitimize horrific atrocities.”
The Korean International Student Association at Harvard has additionally demanded an apology from Mr. Ramseyer, expressing concern that the college’s title “could lend credibility to the argument” that Japan’s wartime authorities was not answerable for the trafficking and enslavement of ladies. A petition with related language has been signed by a whole lot of Harvard college students.
Several 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 have 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 a variety of international locations, principally in Asia, have been intercourse slaves, mentioned Yang Kee-ho, a professor of Japanese research at Sungkonghoe University in Seoul.
“There are many details in the paper which contradict facts and distort truth,” he added.
The paper, “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War,” argues that the Japanese Army created requirements for licensing so-called consolation stations round Asia throughout World War II as a manner of stopping the unfold of venereal illness.
Mr. Ramseyer, an knowledgeable on Japanese regulation, wrote that “prostitutes” who labored within the brothels signed contracts that have been just 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 among the ladies have modified their accounts through the years. “Claims about enslaved Korean comfort women are historically untrue,” he wrote in Japan Forward, an English-language web site affiliated with a right-wing Japanese newspaper, final month.
The International Review of Law 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. But the journal’s editorial staff mentioned via a spokesman that the article would nonetheless be printed within the March version and was “considered final.”
Another publication, the European Journal of Law and Economics, mentioned this week that it was investigating considerations 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 bunch of six Japan-based lecturers who advised the editors of the International Review of Law and Economics in a letter that the article that triggered the latest outcry was “well within the academic and diplomatic mainstream” and supported by work from students in Japan, South Korea and the United States. They didn’t title 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 Sex” 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 University is the top school in the United States,” added Mr. Katsuoka, a lecturer at Meisei University and the secretary-general of a right-wing analysis group. “If they lose freedom of speech, I have to judge that no freedom of speech exists in the United States.”
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 suitable of ladies to assert their very own historical past.
Even although 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 duty, apologized anew to the ladies and promised to arrange an $8.3 million fund to assist present old-age care. Some 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.
More not too long ago, individuals 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 isn’t 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 young person, overlaying her mouth so she couldn’t name to her mom.
Ji Soo Janet Park, a Harvard regulation 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 next generation that’s responsible for making sure that this remains a part of history,” mentioned Ms. Park, 27, whose undergraduate thesis explored how memorials to former intercourse slaves form Korean-American identification.
In an interview this week, Ms. Lee, the survivor, mentioned that she was dismayed to see individuals 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 International Court of Justice.
“As my last work, I would like to clarify the matter at the I.C.J.,” she mentioned, referring to the court docket. “When I die and meet the victims who have already passed away, I can tell them that I resolved this issue.”
Youmi Kim reported from Seoul and Mike Ives from Hong Kong. Jennifer Schuessler contributed reporting from New York and Makiko Inoue from Tokyo.