Skip to content

Thoughts after the Symposium on Professor Ramseyer’s Article

26 July 2021
SUGIHARA Seishiro, Chairman

We, the International Research Institute of Controversial Histories (iRICH), are a research institute with the principal aim of recognizing true history by tackling historical controversies of international significance based on fair historical research for the purpose of preserving the honor and dignity of Japan and the Japanese people. Among our major tasks is the resolution of the increasingly tumultuous comfort women issue.

Regarding history, there are those who make criticisms and baseless accusations that go against immutable facts. There will be those who will deny the truth without fact-based objection and they do this merely out of spite. These things only confuse the global audience. The comfort women issue of today is in fact a typical example of critics sowing confusion.

When such confusion over history exists, it is the historical researchers’ duty to probe into the facts, put the facts into an overall context (for the comfort women issue, the use of “comfort women” by other countries) and ascertain the values at the time. In the face of hostility, the historical researchers’ mission is to overturn unfounded claims, thereby building peaceful relationships between people and nations and to contribute to development harmonious human relations in the 21st century. Researchers have been guaranteed “academic freedom” for these purposes.

A number of present-day researchers, however, have abandoned this duty and mission. Participating in activities that disrupt harmonious human relations under the flag of “academic freedom” is vile. These so-called researchers have harmed “academic freedom” for the rest of us and should really no longer be considered “researchers”.

Recently, an objective, academic work written by Professor Mark Ramseyer of Harvard Law School, concerning the comfort women issue outlined a clear picture of indentured prostitution based on game theory, came under fire. Rather than though discussion of the facts, critics launched a petition demanding that the journal retract his paper. As of May 2021, 3,665 researchers signed this petition.

A campaign like this, wherein a mob demands the retraction of a previously accepted scholarly work, goes against courteous discussion and directly imperils the very basis of “academic freedom”.

Accordingly, on April 24, we held an emergency symposium at Seiryo Kaikan in Tokyo to protest this trail-by-mob and gave Professor Ramseyer support. The speakers who gathered are truly experts on the comfort women issue and the symposium was to date the most significant meeting concerning research on the comfort women issue held in Japan. Professor Ramseyer contributed a video message from the U.S. and, from South Korea, Professor LEE Woo-yeon, who is renounced for his study of the comfort women issue, also contributed a video message. Our symposium could very well be considered very international.

In addition, on June 3, we sent an open letter to the Science Council of Japan, which, coincidentally, attracted attention since the end of 2020 over an issue concerning government appointment of Council members. We urged the Council to respond to the petition drive demanding the retraction of the Ramseyer paper. The iRICH, held a press conference on that day to directly appeal to the public as well.

As of our deadline, June 30, the Science Council of Japan has yet to respond.

The lack of response from an organization funded by the Japanese people for academic research within Japan is extremely troubling, especially over a matter of academic freedom, a matter that affects each member of the Science Council of Japan. The lack of response highly suggests that the Science Council of Japan agrees with the mob campaign to force retraction of a work of research and agrees that curtailing “academic freedom” regarding the comfort women issue is the right thing to do. If so, then public funding for the Science Council of Japan should be stopped immediately.

On July 9, we again requested a response from the Council to our questions posed on June 3. We sent additional questions based on the fact that have been found after the first open letter.

It is the hope of iRICH that the Science Council of Japan is a just and impartial organization. We also hope that the Council truly believes in “academic freedom” for the sake of advancing knowledge. To guarantee “academic freedom”, we suggest that: (1)  researchers’ ethics be made clear, (2) a system be established wherein measures are undertaken to resolve problems of ethics, and (3) a framework be in place wherein divergent theories can be considered, reconciled and converged to the extent possible. The Science Council of Japan operates via public funding and for the sake of “academic freedom” in Japan, it should be able to perform these three roles. Regarding (1), the Science Council of Japan has already established the “Code of Conduct for Scientists” in 2006, revised in 2013. The Council has yet to establish (2) and (3).

As iRICH explained at great length at the July 9 press conference, the petition demanding withdrawal of the Ramseyer paper is clearly an act that goes against the Science Council of Japan’s own Code of Conduct for Scientists. Should the Council remain silent regarding the petition and its Code of Conduct, then the Council is not really operating in the interest of the Japanese people and the Government of Japan should cut its over 1 billion yen annual budget. The iRICH is determined to pursue the matter with the Science Council of Japan to a successful conclusion, wherein we can clearly state that the Council absolutely respects “academic freedom” and thereby operates in the interest of the Japanese people. We welcome and appreciate the broad support of the public.