Last month, Harvard professor J. Mark Ramseyer sparked outrage among fellow academics and campaigners after making unsubstantiated claims that women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military had chosen to work in the wartime brothels. Now he is facing a huge backlash from around the world. Representatives from China, South Korea and North Korea have all spoken out against Ramseyer’s work, arguing that the women and girls were never given a choice. “It is an internationally recognized historical fact supported by ironclad evidence.”
In an academic paper published online, Ramseyer claimed the women were sex workers who had voluntarily entered into contracts – a view supported by Japanese ultra-conservatives seeking to whitewash their country’s wartime atrocities. No contracts were ever found to exist in support of his claims.
“Comfort women” refers to the hundreds of thousands of young girls and women from multiple Asian countries who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II, according to the United Nations. Many victims have come forward and shared their testimonies, and multiple studies over the last two decades have been conducted into the role the women played. Still, “comfort women” has been a tense topic between Japan and Korea. Ramseyer’s paper is currently under investigation.