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[Newsmaker] US law students ask Biden to engage in ‘comfort women’ issue

A statue of a girl symbolizing
A statue of a girl symbolizing "comfort women" (Yonhap)
Asian students in 15 US law schools including Harvard asked the White House to engage in the “comfort women” issue ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s US visit.

The Harvard Asian Pacific American Law Students Association said Tuesday that they sent a letter, co-signed by the Asian law student associations of 14 other universities such as Columbia, Stanford and Yale, requesting US President Joe Biden to raise the issue of Japan’s wartime sex slavery during his summit with Suga, Yonhap News Agency reported Wednesday.

In the letter, the students asked Biden to recommend Suga to completely and clearly apologize to the victims of forced sex slavery organized by Japan during the Second World War.

The students stressed in the letter that attempts to stitch up the problem without regard to the victims’ dignity and justice was only deepening distrust between South Korea and Japan, the two most important US allies in Asia.

They said relations among the three countries can improve only with a complete, victim-oriented resolution to the comfort women issue.

The students also said that, in addition to a clear apology by the Japanese Cabinet or parliament resolution, the Japanese prime minister must apologize to the victims of sexual slavery through international press.

They added that instead of having private foundations compensate the victims, the Japanese government must directly compensate the victims, and provide education on the women’s sacrifice during the war.

“If the Japanese government continues to maintain its counterfactual position that the ‘comfort women’ were not sex slaves but were voluntary prostitutes, the issue should be referred to the International Court of Justice to be tried and judged once and for all. We welcome an opportunity to discuss with you or your staff about a path forward,” they wrote.

Mentioning a recent article by Mark Ramseyer, a Mitsubishi professor of Japanese legal studies at Harvard Law School, the students wrote that they witnessed that claims to deny and distort the history of comfort women exist not just in Japan but also in other countries such as the US.

Ramseyer described the forced sex slavery organized by Japan as a consenting, contractual process in his article “Contracting for sex in the Pacific War.”

Harvard APALSA said in a statement last month that Ramseyer’s arguments are factually inaccurate and misleading, noting that he ignores expansive scholarship done by international organizations such as the United Nations and Amnesty International as well as decades worth of Korean scholarship, primary sources and third-party reports.

Biden is scheduled to hold summit talks with Suga on April 16 at the White House.

The two leaders are expected to discuss bilateral cooperation including how to work together on China and North Korea.

By Kim So-hyun (