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BOOK REVIEW | The Comfort Women Hoax: A Fake Memoir, North Korean Spies, and Hit Squads in the Academic Swamp

This book by J Mark Ramseyer and Jason M Morgan exposes the twin dangers of intellectual dishonesty and censorship on the comfort women issue in academia.



Encounter Books publisher's page for "The Comfort Women Hoax" by Mark Ramseyer and Jason M Morgan. (Screenshot)

The Comfort Women Hoax exposes the lies and myths of the comfort women issue and ends the myths surrounding it. This is done through meticulous, multilanguage, and multiarchival research and cross-disciplinary cooperation. Meanwhile, the book calls for the restoration of integrity and honesty in academia and an end to canceling and censorship.

I have never gone from anger to laughter as fast as I have when I was reading the new book, The Comfort Women Hoax, by J Mark Ramseyer and Jason Morgan

The anger started when I learned in detail for the first time about the experience the two authors went through, respectively, at the hands of the hyenas of the high academy. That refers to the "academic assassins," the mob, and spineless others who went along with the canceling and other punishments against those who questioned the narrative and party line.

I was angry because I, too, had gone through a somewhat similar experience nine years ago. It brought back unpleasant memories of being "canceled" by leftists in Okinawa and their supporters among Japanese and foreign academics. And by the local as well as international media. This was for demonstrating that the many myths of the so-called "Okinawa Problem" were unfounded or no longer true. (Indeed, a couple of the same names appearing in Comfort Women Hoax involved in my excommunication were also key players in Ramseyer and Morgan's experience.) 

Book cover of "The Comfort Women Hoax" by Mark Ramseyer and Jason M Morgan. (Courtesy of Encounter Books, publisher.)

Obstacle Course to Discovering the Truth

I was also bothered to discover that the travails these two great and brave scholars had gone through suggested the situation had only worsened in the interim.

Fighting a bankrupt orthodoxy is particularly frustrating as it is unwelcome and unrewarded. Not in the financial sense, but in the sometimes-grueling marathon to discover the truth. I thought, probably like Ramseyer and Morgan had at one point, that our (my) fellow academics were part of the same race to find the truth. Eventually, I believed, we could all cross the finish line, satisfied we had done our parts.

Instead, particularly as Ramseyer and Morgan experienced, along the already challenging course, their (our) fellow academics would kneecap them, hit them (us) from behind, have hostile spectators throw bottles and cans, pressure race officials to disqualify them (us), share additional lies with the media and others to confuse the situation further or to vilify them (us). And furthermore make it difficult for them (us) to run the race.

Book cover of Professor J Mark Ramseyer's rebuttal to critics in English, Japanese and Korean. This volume is in Japanese but it is also available in English and Korean.

Understanding 'Canceling'

The chapter, "Making Sense of the Canceling," includes an especially poignant sentence. It explains what they were going through and I could very much relate to it. "In the course of an ostracism, you learn about the spine, courage, compassion, and integrity among the people in your life — or about their absence" (pp. 211-212).

Later in the same chapter, the authors go into greater detail about what happens while being canceled in academia. "In a canceling," they write, 


People you do not know try to destroy your career. People you do know sign their petitions. And throughout, you know only that you know nothing about the future. You have no sense of how far it will go or when it will end. You wake up in the morning (or sometimes in the middle of the night) and check your cell phone. You wonder how many—how many dozen—hate emails have arrived. 

You wonder which article of yours is next on the kill list, which publisher will drop a manuscript of yours, which students will petition the dean about what malapropism you spoke in class, which organizations will dump you from their boards, which website will publish what defamation. You have no idea what will come next, but you do know that things will never be the same again. (PP 230-231)

And, I would add, you will never be able to look the same at your colleagues again.

Revealing the Identity of the 'Denialists'

The laughter, on the other hand, I experienced as I read the book. It came when I saw how similar the patterns were, and how absurd the claims using discredited testimonies and sources. And the juvenile nature of their attempts. 

There was a sense of satisfaction in watching Ramseyer and Morgan chip away at the imposing wall of deception. That wall has not only diverted scholars from finding the truth but also greatly harmed bilateral relations between Japan and Korea. 

In the greatest of upsets, thanks to this book, the accusers were found out to be the "denialists." Those claiming to be the "protectors" of the comfort women were the greatest victimizers. Efforts to exploit the comfort women's story by the radical left in previous decades ended up harming the women themselves the most. That may be the greatest irony.

This comfort women statue was erected in front of the former Japanese Embassy in Seoul. (©Kim Byungheon) 

Lack of Courage in Academia

I do not know most of the accusers. They also include a handful of Japanese and South Korean scholars who are cited in this book. But I know their ilk, as alluded to before.

However, I felt a sense of great disappointment when reading about the anti-intellectual and partisan behavior of my fellow academics. Nevertheless, that feeling was not associated so much with the politically biased and careerist-motivated "Quintet" (p. 22). (Those five scholars were identified in Ramseyer and Morgan's book.) 

Rather, my greater disappointment was in those who went along with them. Perhaps this latter group did so out of fear of being penalized somehow. Such as being talked about or kicked out of the academic club known as the "academy." Or perhaps they were being intellectually lazy, or worse, timid.


There is nothing worse than being intelligent but not possessing the courage to use that intelligence and do the right thing. Scholars, in this regard, are a particularly weak breed. They tend to lack a moral compass and find it easier or safer to go along in herds or groups and sign the petition of the day. 

For the most part, they are not free thinkers. Were they, their actions, as described by the authors, would be unconscionable and a violation of what they signed up to be as academics.

Dissecting the Gang Mentality

Ramseyer and Morgan cite various petitions and letters in which academics piled on, like a gang kicking a downed man on the street. Fortunately, I did not see some names on the petitions. Perhaps those individuals did not know about a particular letter or petition and did not sign it. Or, maybe they did know and chose to ignore or otherwise not sign. I would like to assume it was the latter as it restores my trust (a little) in the academy. 

The idea of letters and petitions in the first place instead of an academic rebuttal is part of this "mob" mentality. Ramseyer and Morgan describe this in the Amish term of meidung, or "shunning" (p. 3). But it is also prevalent in most cultures, including Japan. That shunning exists in higher education is repulsive and primitive.

Albert Einstein is quoted as having said, in response to a 1931 book titled One Hundred Authors Against Einstein challenging his theory of relativity, "Why 100? If I were wrong, one would have been enough." Nearly one hundred years later, the academy is no better. Not only do they write letters and petitions, but they seek to censor altogether, prevailing on journals to reject or disavow otherwise well-documented articles.

It is no wonder so many people in the United States (and other countries) detest academics. They see the academics' fragility, lack of courage, double standards, anti-curiosity, and other glaring flaws. This is true in Japan as well, but perhaps not as pronounced.

comfort women
Contemporaneous wartime military records also contradict the popular narrative on the comfort women. (© Archie Miyamoto)

The Twin Dangers of Dishonesty and Censorship

It should be emphasized that the individuals identified in Ramseyer and Morgan's book are perhaps the worst. There are also outstanding scholars ー decent, humane, honest ー among us. 

However, the ones in the book are repeat offenders of intellectual dishonesty and censorship. Their malfeasance is well documented by the use of documents and communications. These were obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and from what the scholars themselves wrote publicly on social media sites. And now thanks to the publication of this book, they are the most notorious.  

Readers should carefully read the book and make their own judgment. I am sure they will see the twin dangers of intellectual dishonesty and censorship.


Intellectual dishonesty is an individual matter affecting society. Censorship is a societal matter affecting other individuals. Together they have devastating consequences.

Especially, however, censorship, particularly that practiced by those attacking Ramseyer's pioneering work on the comfort women, is wrong on two fronts. It prevents the individual from speaking or publishing. And it also prevents his/her audience from hearing the contents of what is being written or said. In other words, their rights are also being stolen from them. And it is done on a massive scale.

Fortunately, Encounter Books accepted and published this book. It became available to the public on January 23, 2024. For the sake of disclosure, I received my copy in person from co-author Morgan, with whom I am co-editing a different book. Also, I have participated with him in debates for both television and print media. 

Even if I had not received a personal copy or known Morgan, I imagine I would still be writing this review. That is because I believe this will be the most important book of 2024, if not this decade.

Starting Reconciliation

The book is divided into ten chapters, including an Introduction and an Epilogue. These are: "Chapter 1 The Anatomy of a Canceling," "Chapter 2 The Comfort Stations," "Chapter 3 The Hoax Builds," "Chapter 4 The Hoax Collapses," "Chapter 5 The Attacks Redux," "Chapter 6 The Korean Council," "Chapter 7 Making Sense of the Canceling," and "Chapter 8 Academic Freedom."

It also includes a Foreword by Lew Seok-Choon. He is one of the brave Korean academics who similarly challenged the party line. Lew, too, was viciously canceled in his own country for saying similar things and even was taken to court. 

The 369-page book explains the impact of a fraudulent memoir, published in 1983, by Seiji Yoshida. In his memoir, Yoshida claims to have abducted Korean women with Japanese soldiers. His book has been used by domestic and foreign media to manipulate history and memory. It has derailed Korean-Japanese relations for the past forty years and undermined academia for a couple of generations. 

East Asian politics (and international scholarship) has yet to recover. However, perhaps Ramseyer and Morgan's book will truly start the healing, reconciliation, and rebuilding process.

Professor J Mark Ramseyer (©Ramseyer)
Jason Morgan at JINF Award Ceremony (Photo: Jason Morgan)

What the Book Could Have Done Better

The only criticism I have of it is that the book did not come out sooner.  It also pulled its punches in some cases. 

For the former criticism, rather than rush to publication, the authors wanted to build a solid case that would stand the test of time. Thus they devoted much time and effort to completing the volume. Picture the marathon course described at the beginning of this review. In it, the authors sought to carefully debunk the lies and myths, while being attacked simultaneously from all sides. 

In addition, the authors also provided a helpful bibliography and footnotes. They also included an annotated appendix on "Information about Comfort Women Contracts." That information will help current and future researchers analyze the issue dispassionately. 

Reitaku University (Japan) Professor Tsutomu Nishioka speaks at the September 5 Comfort Women Symposium in Seoul, South Korea. (©Kim Byungheon)

Encouraging the Search for Truth

Regarding my criticism that the authors pulled their punches, the authors likely did so because they are fundamentally decent people. They did not want to destroy the careers of their critics who wittingly or unwittingly went along with the "hoax. 

Instead, they warned of a "moral" to the story. "it is not a good idea to try to destroy other people's careers. It is especially not a good idea when you are in way over your head and winging it. You just might be wrong ーand God help you when you are." (P. 191) Instead, they withheld further wrath by writing, as the last sentence of the book, "We would not wish our two years on anyone." (P. 295) 

In this sense, the book is less about the comfort women issue or Japan-Korea issues. Rather it is about the search for truth, which can be very dangerous. Especially in academia. And it is about the importance of objective, scholarly inquiry. All academics should read it and learn from it. I certainly have.

About the Book:

Title: The Comfort Women Hoax

Subtitle: A Fake Memoir, North Korean Spies, and Hit Squads in the Academic Swamp

Authors: J Mark Ramseyer and Jason M Morgan  

Publisher: Encounter Books, New York (January 23, 2024)


ISBN: 978-1641773454

Formats: Hardcover and digital (Kindle) 


Review by: Robert D Eldridge, PhD
Eldridge is a former tenured associate professor of Japanese Political and Diplomatic History and US-Japan Relations at Osaka University and served as the Political Advisor to the US Marine Corps in Japan. He currently is a 2024 Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fellow at Tamkang University.

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