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The Comfort Women: Professor Ramseyer Wrote His Rebuttal Over a Year Ago — Where Are His Critics Now?

When Professor Ramseyer wrote a response to his critics, it was met with defeated silence — a stark contrast to the storm of criticism his first paper elicited.



A comfort women statute outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul. (©Kyodo)

In December 2020, Harvard Law School Professor J Mark Ramseyer published an eight-page paper titled, "Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War." In his paper, Professor Ramseyer explored the contracts made by Japanese and Korean prostitutes with their handlers. 

The contracts involved large initial payments and dictated periods of service. His article drew massive criticism with hardly any mention of the core of his article — the contractual agreement between the comfort women and their handlers. 

Therefore, in January 2022, Professor Ramseyer published a response to those criticisms. Because of the varied nature of most of the criticisms, his response was quite lengthy, requiring some sixty-plus pages. It was appropriately titled, "Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War: A Response to My Critics."

Professor Ramseyer's response to his critics was translated into Japanese by Kiyoshi Hosoya. It was published by GAHT (the Global Alliance for Historical Truth) in book form of some 70 pages in April 2023. In his initial paper, Professor Ramseyer focused on the necessity for such large advance payments and the determination of the duration of the contracts. Critics were many, but very few were about the contents of his article. Most were about the immorality of the comfort women system. Many insisted the women were abducted by Japanese soldiers. In his lengthy response, he replies to these critics.

Professor Ramseyer speaks at Harvard Law School's book talk in 2015. (©Harvard Law School YouTube screenshot)

Why Are His Critics Silent?

The publisher of the Japanese translation notes the difference in reactions to Professor Ramseyer's original paper and to his second paper. The original paper drew a storm of critics.  His reply to the critics was written well over a year ago now. But those critics who claim comfort women were sex slaves have been silent. Is it because they are unable to respond? 

The lack of responses could not serve as a reason for not proceeding with this translation into Japanese. After all, it is the Japanese who bear the onus of the allegations that Korean women were abducted by the Japanese as sex slaves for their military.

The publisher points out three significant points about Professor Ramseyer's original article and his response to critics:

  1. Professor Ramseyer's original article was published in January 2020. It explained the economics driving the comfort women system.
  2. The change in American public opinion concerning the comfort woman issue is evidenced by the heated response to his original article and the lack of comments/reactions to his response to critics.
  3. Professor Ramseyer's pursuit of the truth despite immense opposition is commendable.

Seeking the Truth

Furthermore, the translator Kiyoshi Hosoya mentioned the significance of the Japanese translation in introducing Professor Ramseyer's writings to the Japanese public. He also explained the postwar occupation policy of painting Japan as the ultimate evil and the changes that have happened since. 

Undoubtedly, this view of Japan has greatly influenced public opinion in the United States. It has affected how Americans evaluate the truth on the conduct of Japan in such matters as the comfort woman issue. The words of Japanese researchers have had little credibility. Therefore, it requires scholars from former Allied nations to research these issues to seek the truth.    

The Future of Japan-South Korea Relations

South Koreans have used many historical issues, including the comfort women issue, to attack Japan. It is high time for South Koreans to realize that, in the event of an economic crisis, there is only one nation that would be likely to come to their aid. This was evident in the previous financial crisis. South Koreans should accept history as history and not as a tool for a never-ending vendetta against Japan for past wrongs, real or imagined. 

Comfort women activists rally in Seoul on June 14, 2023. (©Kyodo)

The relationship between the US and Japan is a good example. World War II resulted in massive casualties on both sides. Yet, five years later, even before the peace treaty was signed, Japanese mine sweepers were engaged in combat operations in the initial stages of the Korean War assisting the US Navy. This bond of friendship and trust between the two nations has continued to this day.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is doing the proper thing in seeking closer relations with Japan. Let us pray it continues into the far future.  


Author: Archie Miyamoto

The author is an American with a long history and unique fondness for both South Korea and Japan. Find other articles by Mr Miyamoto, including those related to the relationship and history between Japan and South Korea on JAPAN Forward.


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