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(LEAD) U.S. historian denounces Japanese scholars' statement over wartime sexual slavery

All Headlines 07:18 March 26, 2015

(ATTN: ADDS Harvard professor joining statement, Minor edit)

WASHINGTON, March 25 (Yonhap) -- An American history scholar expressed strong displeasure Wednesday after a group of Japanese historians demanded a U.S. publisher revise the description of Japan's sexual enslavement of women during World War II in a textbook.

The demand, led by history scholar Ikuhiko Hata, followed and were similar to the much-denounced attempts by Japan's government to pressure U.S. publisher McGraw-Hill to alter the description of the sexual slavery issue, claiming there are grave errors in the textbook.

The attempts were denounced as efforts to water down the atrocity.

Last month, Alexis Dudden, a professor at the University of Connecticut, and 18 other American scholars issued a statement denouncing Japan's demand toward the publisher as attempts to "censor history." In addition to those scholars, Harvard Professor Andrew Gordon joined in the statement later, she said.

On Tuesday, Dudden criticized the Japanese scholars' demand.

"To me, on the eve of 70th anniversary commemorations, this is simply part of the deeper effort by a small yet incredibly powerful and well-connected part of Japanese society to bolster official claims about the war and empire in general," she said.

"Unfortunately, their collective 'noise' pre-empts the ability to engage in constructive dialogue and learning, and it transforms the topics involved such as the history of the comfort women into objects with which to brand people 'pro' or 'anti' Japanese. This isn't history, however. Instead, it is identity and memory politics," she added.

Calling Japan's sexual slavery "a history that happened" and the "grotesque violation of the human rights of those trapped within its state-sponsored system," the professor also said her group of scholars will continue to support academic freedom for everyone engaged in researching, writing, and teaching about the issue.

"We will not retract or alter our statement," she said.

Following the Japanese government's request, McGraw-Hill has said it "unequivocally" stands by the description of the sexual slavery issue in its textbook. On Wednesday, the publisher said it does not have any additional comments on the Japanese historians' demand.

Historians estimate that up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, which was a Japanese colony from 1910 to 1945, were forced to work in front-line brothels for Japanese soldiers during World War II. But Japan has long attempted to whitewash the atrocity.

The sexual slavery issue has been the biggest thorn in frayed relations between Japan and South Korea, with Seoul demanding Japan take steps to address the grievances of elderly Korean victims of the atrocity and Japan refusing to do so.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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