[한국역사연구회] 램지어 교수의 ‘위안부’ 부정론에 대한 역사 관련 학회, 시민단체 규탄 성명서(영문)

2021-03-18 10:29

Statement of Condemnation

from the Historical Society and Civic Organizations of the Republic of Korea


Demanding Professor John Mark Ramseyer Stop Denying the

Existence of Korean Comfort Women violated by the Japanese Troops


In December 2020, an article entitled Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War, authored by one Professor John Mark Ramseyer of the Harvard Law School, was published online by an influential academic journal named the International Review of Law and Economics (IRLE). After that, the Sankei Newspaper of Japan posted a brief introduction of this article on January 28th, 2021, and criticism of the article has been raised all over the world ever since, especially over the contents inappropriate nature and egregious violation of basic research ethics. 

Prof. Ramseyer, in his discussion of the practice of licensed prostitution in Japan and Korea in the 20th centurys early half, suggested a premise that there was a contractual relationship dictating compensation for sex labor, based on an agreement formed between sex traffickers and hired females. On that premise, he argued that such contractual relationship also existed in the Comfort houses operated by the Japanese troops during the Asia-Pacific War. In other words, he views the Korean Comfort women, who were forced to serve the Japanese troops, as individuals who acted under contracts similar to ones sex laborers would have with their trafficking employers. And as an extension of such view, he has argued that Korean Comfort women would have also acted under contracts they voluntarily agreed to, and thus there was no damages inflicted upon them, damages that the Japanese Imperialism should have been held accountable for. 

By doing what is mentioned above, Prof. Ramseyer deliberately ignores 30 years worth of verbal testimonies, documentary evidence and research results that have been accumulated so far. He also disregards all the efforts of dedicated citizens and academicians around the world to address the Comfort Women issue that have begun ever since victims such as Kim Hak-sun in 1991 and Jan Ruff O'Herne in 1992 came forward in a stunning display of bravery. Meanwhile, critical evaluations of Prof. Ramseyers article from all around the world reveal that he arbitrarily employed and even distorted firsthand and secondary materials to support his theory. Most importantly, he failed to deliver a key evidence that would have supposedly supported his main point. Added to that, the Game Theory he used -to justify his denial of truth and hateful argument- was actually misused, according to economic scholars. It becomes clear that the current issue at hand is not about granting or not anyone academic freedom, but about requiring one to abide by simple research ethics. Unfortunately, Prof. Ramseyer is yet to recant his work, and the International Review of Law and Economics is yet to denounce it. 

Below is how we view the current situation, and Prof. Ramseyers article. 

First, Prof. Ramseyers article is in grave violation of the most basic ethical obligations any academic body of work should honor and respect. There are countless examples of him being utterly selective in choosing materials to back his arguments, and shamelessly interpreting them in a most distorted way. He admitted that to his knowledge, a contract for Korean Comfort women, which would have been the most significant evidence for his main argument as it would prove there was indeed a contractual relationship in the Comfort houses, does not exist. He argued that the Comfort women could have returned home after the contract period expired, based on a text known as Journals of a Comfort House Manager, but in this text there is no comment on a contract or on the reason for a Comfort woman to return home.

Prof. Ramseyer also highlighted the fact that Mun Ok-ju, a Korean Comfort woman victim earned a lot of money for her service, but he ignored the fact that she died before even receiving part of her income that she had saved for later payment, thus dismissing the tragic nature of her entire life. His treatment of the Mun Ok-ju case is a typical abuse of a victims voice: using the victims (Muns) testimony to justify the offenders (the Japanese Imperialisms) position. He never bothered to quote books that contain Mun Ok-jus own testimony. Instead he cited distorted contents of an anonymous Rightist blog. His actions is nothing but a direct breach of the virtue of academic diligence and truthfulness, and an egregious scientific misconduct. 

Secondly, Prof. Ramseyers argument is an unacceptable infringement on humanitys most universal agreement, that all human rights should be protected and preserved even under Patriarchy, Colonialism, and War. He turns a blind eye to the reality of the early 20th century, which saw and used female bodies merely as commodities and munitions. He argues that females voluntarily became Comfort women to earn money under contracts they agreed to honor as a free individual.

This inhumane and anti-Human rights sort of an argument goes against every effort that has continued by countless organizations for decades: reports from the International Labor Organization(ILO) and the United Nation’s Commission on Human Rights, recommendation of the United Nation’s Human Rights Council, report from the International Commission of Jurists(ICJ), and the ruling and recommendation of the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal 2000 for the Trial of Japanese Military Sexual Slavery. All these efforts represent a strive for revealing the reality of the Asia-Pacific war, during which systemic rapes continued and a concept of ‘sexual slavery’ did exist. And the objective of the efforts was to hold the Japanese government responsible for not recognizing its own obligations to the truth, while also to promote universal values such as peace and female rights. But Prof. Ramseyer, sadly, does not see that.

Prof. Ramseyers argument also contradicts the efforts of the U.S. Congress which unanimously passed a Resolution on Comfort Women in 2007. The Resolution went a long way to define the Comfort Women issue as the biggest and most tragic human trafficking event of the 20th century. It also highlighted Japans glaring failure to acknowledge the full extent of its own war crimes, but Prof. Ramseyer apparently remains indifferent to this achievement as well, as his actions are in direct denial of all the aforementioned efforts, agreements and accomplishments of civic organizations around the world, the global academic society, and all the International organizations, including UN. 

Thirdly, Prof. Ramseyers arguments is based on deliberate distortion of historical facts, and hatred against efforts to pursue historical truth. His attitude and position is incompatible with academic freedom and the freedom of speech. Historical studies, as part of Studies of Humanities, are always prone to make mistakes. There can be various interpretations over a same event. But Prof. Ramseyers argument is simply not based on relevant facts, as he ignored all the testimonies collected from both victims and offenders of the Comfort women issue that have been massively accumulated for years. He also presented a very distorted point of view, in his examination of records regarding Japanese troops which managed the Comfort houses.

In fact, this is not the first time he demonstrated a perspective of denying historical truth. He has already done that earlier through a column he contributed to the JAPAN Forward, an English journal published by the Sankei Newspaper of Japan. In this column, published on January 12th under the title of Recovering the Truth about the Comfort Women, he accused facts of Korean Comfort women being drafted as sex slaves to be fictitious and untrue stories, practically labelling Comfort women as prostitutes and not sex slaves. This is nothing but an act of blindly siding with Japans Extreme Rights hatred of Comfort women and the minority in general, which is nothing new for Prof. Ramseyer as he has insulted and ridiculed victims and minority in other articles as well. This kind of disregard for historical truth should not be allowed to continue, especially under the name of academic freedom and the freedom of speech. 

In conclusion, we believe it is not acceptable that Prof. Ramseyers article is granted free publication and circulation under the name of academic freedom or the freedom of speech. His article is without respect for ethical integrity or academic obligations, it violates universal agreements and moral values, and it intentionally distorts historical truth, as it is based upon hatred and denial. Just like the case of David Irving, who denied the Holocaust and was subsequently tried and convicted for deliberately distorting the historical truth, any academic product that blatantly abandons the obligation of academic diligence and truthfulness, and ignore universal human values, should never be considered worthy of all the privileges that entail freedom of academic expressions. 

Oftentimes nowadays we come across an individual or group which would not only turn a blind eye to historical truth, but also outright deny the Japanese troops responsibility for their actions. People like them would often offer arguments based on personal faith and emotion, and not on what is true or false. They disguise their arguments as facts supported by empirical evidence, and try to distort public consensus. We have already witnessed such anti-intellectual attempts in the form of fake news and anti-truth schemes on a global scale. And we fear that this trend would not end with preventing further deviations of a single individual like Prof. Ramseyer. It is truly disconcerting that his arguments are seemingly resonating within an international network composed of Extreme Right elements of Korea, Japan and the U.S., which have been nothing but steadfast in denying the existence of Japanese atrocities perpetrated against the Korean Comfort women. 

So, it is at this juncture that we would like to look back on previous researches on the Comfort Women issue, and charge ahead in the future with even more extensive studies on the Korean victims violated by the Japanese troops. And while making it clear that as always we will act together with everyone who agrees that the Japanese troops Comfort Women issue should be resolved in the spirit of preserving universal human values such as peace and human rights, we demand the following three things. 


1. We demand Prof. Ramseyer officially apologize for his historical perspectives and academic actions, as they are in nature against not only female rights but universal human values as well. 

2. We demand International Review of Law and Economics cancel Prof. Ramseyers article and pull it from publication, in a gesture that would inspire all global citizens including academicians to ponder upon the dangerous nature of anti-intellectualism and the denial of historical truth. 

3. We pledge our determination for the future to fight any attempt to distort and deny historical truth, including the denial of the Comfort Women history, in league with academic circles and citizens all around the world.


March 18th, 2021

The Kangwon Historical Society, The Society for Studies of Korean History, The Daegu Historical Association, The Korean Society for the History of Medicine, The Korean Society for Urban History, ManInManSaek Researcher's Network,  The Center for Historical Truth and Justice, Pusan-Kyungnam Historical Society, SOOSUN SAHAKHOI, Association for Colonial and Cold war Studies, Asia Peace and History Education Network, Research Institute for History Education, The Korean History Education Society, Society of history Education, Research Center for History Design, The Institute for Korean Historical Studies, The History Education Association, Institute of Historical Studies, The Korean Historical Association, The Korean Society of British History, Woongjin History Association, The Korean Association for the Social History of Medicine and Health, Network on Japanese Military Sexual Slavery, The Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, THE KOREAN ASSOCIATION FOR JAPANESE HISTORY, Association of Korean History Teachers, The Choson Dynasty History Association, Historical Studies Of Ancient And Medieval China Korean, Association for Studies of Modern Chinese History, The Korean Archaeological Society, Society for Korean Ancient History, The Korean History of Science Society, Korean society for history of education, Korean Oral History Association, Korean Society of Archives and Records Management, The Association for the Historical Studies on Korean National Movement, The Association for Korean Historical Studies, The Historical Society of Korea, Korean Ancient Historical Society, The Korean Association for the Western Ancient History and Culture, Korean Association of Women's History, The Korean Association of History Education, Korea Historical Folklore Institute, Korean History Society, The Korea Middle Ages Archeological Society, The Korean Medieval History Society, KOREAN SOCIETY FOR FRENCH HISTORY, Honam Historical Society, The Ho-Suh Historical Association (Total 50 Societies)