statue of comfort women in Seoul

Mark Peterson, professor emeritus of Brigham Young University in the U.S., in a column posted on Feb. 17 on Korea.net refuted a paper by J. Mark Ramseyer, an American professor at Harvard Law School, claiming that women forced into sexual slavery by Japan in the early 20th century were “willing prostitutes.” The photo shows surviving victim Lee Yong-soo on Aug. 14, 2019, touching a statue of a “comfort woman” at the latter’s unveiling ceremony held near the former religious facility Joseon Shingung in Seoul’s Jung-gu District. (Korea.net DB)

By Kim Minji

An expert on Korean studies with a Harvard Ph.D. has refuted the claim of John Mark Ramseyer, an American professor at Harvard Law School, that women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military in the early 20th century were “willing prostitutes.”

In a column titled “Comfort women: Japan again provokes anger in Korea” posted on Feb. 17 on Korea.net of the Korean Culture and Information Service, Mark Peterson, professor emeritus of Brigham Young University (BYU) in the U.S., wrote, “Whatever the reason, the ugly picture of Japan defending its role and actions in World War II raises its ugly head again already in 2021.”

“The problem with the article by Harvard Law School’s Mitsubishi Professor is that it does not deal with the greater issues of how women were recruited by force or trickery, but only deals with an arcane legal topic that only lawyers should read.”

He added, “It talks about the legal issues of legal prostitution in legal, state-sanctioned brothels, as a legal issue. It’s as if the women did not exist. It’s only the law that’s being discussed.”

“But as such, by looking at only one segment of the issue, the article does a great disservice,” Peterson said. “It has served to fire up old animosity, distrust, and hatred of Japan.”

“It does not mention the Rape of Nanjing, where the city was raped or destroyed by the Japanese army for its dogged resistance in one of the worst battles of World War II, but it was also raped, literally by soldiers on a rampage of raping and killing in the aftermath of the battle, for which war crime the Japanese government responded by bolstering its comfort stations as a means of trying to keep soldiers in line sexually.”

He called Ramseyer a man raised in Japan who was awarded the country’s prestigious Order of the Rising Sun two years ago, saying, “While not a Japanese citizen himself, he is a man who represents Japan as much as anyone in or out of Japan can, plus he now carries the imprimatur of the Mt. Everest of universities, Harvard Law School.”

“It is an emotionally raw issue that Japan keeps insisting on revisiting — they keep picking the scab so that it never has time to heal,” he added. “Japan is a ‘far-country mile away’ from showing the sympathy and contrition that a war criminal should show.”

Earning his Ph.D. from Harvard University, Peterson taught Korean studies at BYU for more than 30 years. Since retiring in 2018, he has run the YouTube channel “The Frog Outside the Well.”

The full text of his column is available through the link below.
https://www.korea.net/NewsFocus/Column/view?articleId=195001&pageIndex=1

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