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The New York Times

A Harvard Professor Called Wartime Sex Slaves ‘Prostitutes.’ One Pushed Back.

SEOUL, South Korea — The college students and the survivor have been divided by two generations and seven,000 miles, however they met on Zoom to debate a standard objective: turning a Harvard professor’s broadly disputed claims about sexual slavery throughout World War II right into a teachable second. A latest educational journal article by the professor — during which he described as “prostitutes” the Korean and different ladies pressured to serve Japan’s troops — prompted an outcry in South Korea and amongst students within the United States. It additionally provided an opportunity, on the Zoom name final week, for the growing older survivor of the Japanese Imperial Army’s brothels to inform her story to a gaggle of Harvard college students, together with her case for why Japan ought to concern a full apology and face worldwide prosecution. Sign up for The Morning e-newsletter from the New York Times “The recent remarks by the professor at Harvard are something that you should all ignore,” Lee Yong-soo, a 92-year-old in South Korea and one in all only a handful of so-called consolation ladies nonetheless living, advised the scholars. But the remarks have been a “blessing in disguise” as a result of they created an enormous controversy, added Lee, who was kidnapped by Japanese troopers throughout World War II and raped repeatedly. “So this is kind of a wake-up call.” The dispute over the tutorial paper has echoes of the early 1990s, a time when the world was first starting to listen to the voices of survivors of Japan’s wartime sexual slavery in Asia — traumas that the area’s conservative patriarchal cultures had lengthy downplayed. Now, survivors’ testimony drives a lot of the tutorial narrative on the subject. Yet many students say that conservative forces are as soon as once more attempting to marginalize the survivors. “This is so startling, 30 years later, to be dragged back, because in the meantime survivors from a wide range of countries found a voice,” Alexis Dudden, a historian of Japan and Korea on the University of Connecticut who has interviewed the ladies. The uproar started after an educational journal’s web site revealed an article in December during which J. Mark Ramseyer, a Harvard Law School professor, argued that the ladies have been “prostitutes” who had willingly entered into indenture contracts. An worldwide refrain of historians known as for the article to be retracted, saying that his arguments ignored intensive historic proof and sounded extra like a web page from Japan’s far-right playbook. A bunch of greater than 1,900 economists wrote this week that the article used recreation concept, legislation and economics as “cover to legitimize horrific atrocities.” The Korean International Student Association at Harvard has additionally demanded an apology from Ramseyer, expressing concern that the college’s identify “could lend credibility to the argument” that Japan’s wartime authorities was not liable for the trafficking and enslavement of ladies. A petition with related language has been signed by a whole bunch of Harvard college students. Several students famous that Ramseyer’s argument was flawed as a result of he didn’t produce any signed contracts with Korean ladies as proof — and that specializing in contracts within the first place was deceptive as a result of the ladies, lots of whom have been youngsters, didn’t have free company. Ramseyer’s paper additionally ignored a 1996 United Nations report that concluded that consolation ladies, who got here from quite a few international locations, principally in Asia, have been intercourse slaves, stated Yang Kee-ho, a professor of Japanese research at Sungkonghoe University in Seoul. “There are many details in the paper which contradict facts and distort truth,” he added. The paper, “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War,” argues that the Japanese military created requirements for licensing so-called consolation stations round Asia throughout World War II as a method of stopping the unfold of venereal illness. Ramseyer, an professional on Japanese legislation, wrote that “prostitutes” who labored within the brothels signed contracts that have been just like these utilized in Tokyo brothels, however with shorter phrases and better pay to mirror the hazard of working in battle zones. Ramseyer declined an interview request. He has beforehand argued that counting on survivors’ testimony is problematic as a result of a number of the ladies have modified their accounts over time. “Claims about enslaved Korean comfort women are historically untrue,” he wrote in Japan Forward, an English-language web site affiliated with a right-wing Japanese newspaper, final month. The International Review of Law and Economics, which revealed Ramseyer’s latest paper on-line, posted an “expression of concern” this month saying that it was investigating the paper’s historic proof. But the journal’s editorial group stated via a spokesman that the article would nonetheless be revealed within the March version and was “considered final.” Another publication, the European Journal of Law and Economics, stated this week that it was investigating issues that had been raised a few paper by Ramseyer that it revealed final week in regards to the experiences of Korean migrants in Japan. Ramseyer’s supporters embrace a gaggle of six Japan-based teachers who advised the editors of the International Review of Law and Economics in a letter that the article that precipitated the latest outcry was “well within the academic and diplomatic mainstream” and supported by work from students in Japan, South Korea and the United States. They didn’t identify any particular students. One educational who signed the letter, Kanji Katsuoka, stated in an interview that he had solely learn the abstract of the “Contracting for Sex” article, however felt that the time period “prostitute” was applicable as a result of the ladies had been paid for his or her companies. “Harvard University is the top school in the United States,” added Katsuoka, a lecturer at Meisei University and the secretary-general of a right-wing analysis group. “If they lose freedom of speech, I have to judge that no freedom of speech exists in the United States.” Three many years in the past, when survivors like Lee started talking publicly about their sexual slavery for Japan’s troops, they have been embraced by a nascent feminist motion in East Asia that prioritized the appropriate of ladies to say their very own historical past. Even although the testimonials prompted an official apology from Japan in 1993, the problem stays deeply contentious. The governments of Japan and South Korea agreed to resolve it in 2015, when Japan expressed accountability, apologized anew to the ladies and promised to arrange an $8.three million fund to assist present old-age care. Some of the survivors accepted a portion of the funds, however Lee and some others rejected the overture, saying it failed to offer official reparations or specify Japan’s obligation. More not too long ago, individuals on Japan’s political proper, together with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, have insisted that the Korean ladies weren’t intercourse slaves as a result of there is no such thing as a proof that they have been bodily pressured into the brothels. Survivors have lengthy challenged that declare. Lee has stated that Japanese troopers dragged her from her home when she was a young person, overlaying her mouth so she couldn’t name to her mom. Ji Soo Janet Park, a Harvard legislation pupil who helped arrange the latest Zoom occasion with Lee, stated it was designed to fight “denialists and revisionists” who sought to erase the accounts of wartime sexual slavery. “We’re the next generation that’s responsible for making sure that this remains a part of history,” stated Park, 27, whose undergraduate thesis explored how memorials to former intercourse slaves form Korean American id. In an interview this week, Lee, the survivor, stated that she was dismayed to see individuals in Japan echo Ramseyer’s “absurd” remarks. She stated that she had not given up her marketing campaign to have the problem prosecuted on the International Court of Justice. “As my last work, I would like to clarify the matter at the ICJ,” she stated, referring to the courtroom. “When I die and meet the victims who have already passed away, I can tell them that I resolved this issue.” This article initially appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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