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“Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War,” by J. Mark Ramseyer and Comfort Women issue

On April 6, the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco unanimously adopted a resolution denouncing the article, “Contracting for Sex in the Pacific War,” by J. Mark Ramseyer of the Japanese Legal Studies at Harvard University. Since the online publication of the article, Professor Ramseyer was harshly criticized, irrationally attacked, and even threatened by many people.

J. Mark Ramseyer and Comfort Women issue


At the first point, the article by Professor Ramseyer is an academic paper published in the academic journal “International Review of Law and Economics,” and it is the responsibility of the academia whether this article is academically appropriate and acceptable. It is absolute nonsense for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors which does not have expert knowledge on this issue, heavily debated comfort women issue, to make judgments on the quality of the academic article and to criticize its author. Obviously, this action is not like an American way, which emphasizes the importance of academic freedom.

More importantly, this resolution is full of misunderstandings, errors, and fallacies. For instance, the total number of comfort women is still a matter of debate among the scholars who are specialized in this issue, but the resolution decisively says that the total number was “between 200,000 to 500,000” but no credible scholars insist on the number of 500,000. The resolution also states that “it is estimated that 75%-90% died in captivity,” but again, this is such a ridiculous statement that many scholars admit that there is no evidence to support these figures. The resolution insists that comfort women “came from every country and territory under Japanese occupation” and surprisingly enough, according to the resolution, Okinawa, a prefecture of Japan, is included in these occupied countries and territories. Since Okinawa formally became a part of the Japanese territory as “Ryukyu-han” in 1872, Okinawa has been continuously a proper part of the Japanese territory. What sort of “historical and factual recognition” do the supervisors have by concluding that Okinawa was “under the Japanese occupation”?

This resolution also states that “the international community including the United Nations Human Rights Council have strongly condemned Japan,” but the sheer fact is that the Human Rights Council has never taken such an action to condemn Japan for comfort women issue. Perhaps, the intention of those who drafted the resolution was a reference to the report by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy. However, this report is also full of errors and fallacies and the Commission of Human Rights, which was a precursor of the Human Rights Council, gave the cold shoulder to the report by adopting a resolution to take note of it in 1996.

There are no supervisors of San Francisco who do have any knowledge or any interest in the historical facts of comfort women, and they nonchalantly supported the resolution with unanimous votes. They were simply agitated by hardcore anti-Japan activists like Lilian Sing and Julie Tang. It is a matter of question whether the supervisors are aware of their intention to make San Francisco a capital of anti-Japan movement and whether the supervisors had anticipated the political consequences of the resolution.

This resolution, however, is impertinent to the current situation in the United States, where we have seen many hate crimes cases against Asian-American. On April 16, Prime Minister Suga of Japan will visit the United States to have a face-to-face summit meeting with President Biden, to discuss how to strengthen bilateral relationships and how to contribute to the stability and prosperity of the international community and Asia-Pacific region. At such a circumstance, the question raises that the supervisors did not have any doubts about adopting this resolution in San Francisco as a city open to the Pacific Ocean.

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Moreover, what do the supervisors think about Naomi Osaka, 2020 U.S. Women's Open tennis champion, rasing the voice for Black Lives Matter? What do they think of Hideki Matsuyama becoming the first Asian to win the Masters golf tournament on April 11, and his caddie, Shota Hayato, showing great courtesy at the event?

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