Wow. All I can say is I never expected Harvard to sell out its name so easily to far-right Japanese extremism for money. But in this case is it the institution or the professor? By now, you’ve probably heard about Professor Mark Ramseyer. No, let me clarify his exact title according to the Harvard website: Mitsubishi Professor of Japanese Legal Studies Mark Ramseyer.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a corporation endowing universities. And I certainly love Mitsubishi elevators. They’ve been installed on the 123-floor Lotte World Tower here in Seoul and they go so fast. But as the Mitsubishi professor, Ramseyer is certainly the wrong guy to write about Japan’s World War II atrocities, especially if he’s denying them. (He says the women forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during WWII were hired under prostitute contracts. He’s a professor in corporate law so he should be an expert on contracts right? More on that later.)
Note: Mitsubishi enslaved Koreans to work in their factories to build Japan’s WWII war machine. It also manufactured military aircraft for the Japanese Imperial Army. The Supreme Court of Korea (and appellate court) also recently ruled that Mitsubishi is liable for its wartime abuses.
This is like a hypothetical Siemens-funded professor positing the Jews ‘knew what they were getting into’ when they ‘voluntarily’ went to the concentration camps. Note: Siemens owned a plant in Auschwitz concentration camp and exploited forced labor for the German WWII war machine.
Even if Professor Ramseyer’s research were perfect, Harvard should’ve thought twice about a Mitsubishi professor publishing on the topic of Korean comfort women. Well, it turns out that the good-ole professor’s research is SEVERELY flawed. It lacks the major piece of evidence his whole argument rests upon – the ‘comfort woman’ employment contract!
Don’t take my word for it. It’s Harvard itself that’s raking Ramseyer over the coals – probably because this episode degrades the value of a great institution and puts the professor on par with corrupt politicians whose votes are bought by lobbyists in Washington, DC.
Here are some choice quotes from the amazing three-page evisceration packed with surgical-level evidence. It’s so… Harvard.
“[Ramseyer] has not consulted a single actual contract concluded between a Korean comfort woman, or her family, and a recruiter or a comfort station, or even a sample contract that might have been provided for guidance by the Japanese government or military.”
Ramseyer says the comfort women were not kidnapped slaves, but voluntary contracted employees. However, he couldn’t produce one single contract or the mention of one as evidence. Instead, he cited a contract for Japanese prostitutes before the war in a regular brothel and said it was the same for the wartime comfort women.
“It matters greatly that the terms now in widespread use in Korean and Japanese to refer to brothels and the women put to work there did not necessarily carry the meanings of brothel or prostitute at the time the Japanese government authorized and arranged for the creation of “comfort stations” and issued instructions to recruit “comfort women.” It means that in oral communication to the women and their families, it was an easy matter to obscure the nature of the work being asked for. Indeed, one finds much oral testimony from the women that they were deceived as to the nature of their expected work.”
“A Korean doctoral dissertation from Sŏnggyungwan University in Seoul on the comfort women system (2010) states that “most Koreans did not know what the term wianbu [comfort woman] meant.” And, even a former Japanese military policeman assigned to guard duty at a “comfort station” in 1943 has said that until he got there, he thought he was assigned to an officer’s club, not a brothel.”
So not only were there no written contracts as evidence of voluntary employment as a ‘comfort woman’, Harvard upped the ante by tearing down Ramseyer’s position that the women knew what work they were signing up for. Harvard is saying that even if a woman hypothetically consented to a job, the terms ‘comfort woman’ and ‘comfort station’ were so vague at the time that a woman could easily be deceived into agreeing to a job she did not bargain for.
“The obfuscation of this issue created by the lack of any discussion of whether he has seen actual or sample contracts, and the lack of any citation to such contracts, is for us the most egregious violation of academic integrity in the article.”
“It is not our responsibility to conduct a full examination of the integrity of a paper published by a journal with which we have no connection. That is the job of the journal and its publisher…”
Dang… that means Harvard didn’t even break a sweat writing this piece. You can read the full statement here. They even use the word ‘elision’ right up front like it’s everyday language. It means ‘joining together or merging things, especially abstract ideas.’ That’s not even the first or second definition of the word. It’s the more rarified meaning down the list. So… Harvard.
What do I think? Even if a handful of women chose to join or were victims of a bait and switch job opportunity by their own conspiring countrymen, you can hardly describe the conditions at the military sex stations as ‘prostitution’ or a ‘job’. These ‘comfort women’ were raped all day.
If the professor can’t tell the difference between slavery and an occupation, then perhaps he should submit his penis and anus to a wartime sex station and see whether his interactions with psychopathic soldiers feel more like a paid job or dehumanizing rape. Maybe IG Farben can endow him next?