We strongly condemn Harvard Law School Professor J. Mark Ramseyer’s recent publication of “Contracting for sex in the Pacific War” in the International Review of Law and Economics. In this paper, Professor Ramseyer claims that “comfort women”, victims of state-supported sexual slavery before and during World War II, were actually prostitutes who negotiated consensual contracts for their own financial gain. His argument further claims that comfort women, girls who were as young as the age of 10, understood what the job entailed and that the relationships between these women and the Japanese military were mutually beneficial. He also argues that the Japanese Government was not involved in enslavement or abuse of women; rather, the recruiters and operators of the sex trafficking are responsible. These claims were made without sufficient evidence, and with overt disregard to Korean sources, individual testimonies, and decades of scholarship by international governments and organizations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International. The Japanese government itself admitted in 1993 that while the recruitment of comfort women was mainly handled by service providers who were requested by the military, many women were also recruited against their will. Professor Ramseyer’s argument on the “contractual structure” of sexual slavery during World War II contradicts past research from scholars, invalidates hundreds of survivor testimonials, and vindicates the Japanese government of their role in the trafficking and enslavement of these women.

Approximately 200,000 Korean women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military before and during World War II, along with women from China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Netherlands, East Timor, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma. Professor Ramseyer’s paper not only rejects the trafficked status of comfort women, but also perpetuates history with sexism, colonialism, and racism. As both a professor and a historian, Ramseyer has the duty of presenting his views in an unbiased and accurate manner, yet he fails to uphold academic integrity and attacks fundamental human rights and justice. Professor Ramseyer creates a false but believable history that can be potentially accepted as the truth, especially to those who may not understand to a full extent the history of comfort women. By portraying the relationships between the Japanese Military and these women as consensual and mutually advantageous, Professor Ramseyer adds to continuous revisionist attempts to intentionally erase the history of comfort women and violence within sexual slavery, and disregard the testimonies of sexual slavery victims.

No argument should justify violence against women and the perpetuation of systems of sexual slavery and exploitation. We recognize that academic freedom does not equate to freedom from consequence and that repercussions can arise from Professor Ramseyer's distorted claims. We firmly believe in research, education, and the accurate representation of historical events. We, the undersigned, demand that the individual, as well as the involved institutions, take the following actions:


1) Professor J. Mark Ramseyer to issue a formal and genuine apology to the comfort women for dismissing the validity of their stories, and to provide a correctional statement addressing the inaccuracies within his work.
2) Review of “Contracting for sex in the Pacific War” on behalf of the International Review of Law and Economics, along with a serious consideration of withdrawing the article for its violation of ethics and academics.
3) For the Dean of Harvard Law School and the President of Harvard University to take disciplinary action upon Professor J. Mark Ramseyer for his breach of ethical and academic standards of the institution, and to formally address the implications of his article “Contracting for sex in the Pacific War."
March 1, 2021
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