A recent academic journal entry penned by a Harvard law school professor stirred outrage across academia and civil society, as he claimed victims of Imperial Japan's sex slavery were voluntary prostitutes on competitive salary schemes. Despite strong opposition and refutation against J. Mark Ramseyer's work, with a global petition for its removal, the International Review of Law and Economics has insisted on keeping it in the final publication.
We discuss this ongoing controversy with Dr. Richard W. Painter, S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota, and former chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush. He is vice chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).
This piece of writing by Mr. Ramseyer must have come as quite a surprise to you, especially as he's affiliated with the university that's actually your alma mater. What were your thoughts on Ramseyer's logic and his analysis of the comfort women issue?
Why do you think Ramseyer published such an inflammatory piece of writing at this time, and why did the journal decide to publish this?
You have been actively calling for the removal of Ramseyer's writing from the International Review of Law and Economics. What has been the response so far, and what kind of discipline do you think is needed?
4. The comfort women issue still has not been resolved by South Korea and Japan, despite calls for the victims' voices to be heard and proper retributions to be made. The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances 2018 report urged Japan to provide accurate data on the number of the victims as well as offering adequate compensation to them. Still, a number of Japanese politicians call the victims prostitutes as Ramseyer does, and insist that the case is closed. On South Korea's end, the issue has also been politicised. Is there an ideal way of arbitrating and settling this issue?
5. Earlier this year, to bring America back to the world, Mr. Biden said he would strengthen America's alliances in the Indo-Pacific region and two key partners are South Korea and Japan. After Seoul and Tokyo's ties deteriorated into a trade and diplomatic spat over historical issues, there's been a lot of attention on whether Washington will try and encourage them to mend their ties. The article doesn't help the already-rocky relations between South Korea and Japan. How do you think the reconciliation process can begin? Do you think the new Biden administration will help or encourage the two Asian neighbours to patch up their differences?
6. You were George W. Bush's chief ethics adviser at the White House. The expansion of democratic values has long been a primary objective of American foreign policy, spreading core principles including the rule of law, peace and human rights. However, the last four years of the U.S. administration under former President Donald Trump what happened to America's ethical leadership?
7. It looks like President Biden will be making a significant stand on human rights and political freedoms when handling foreign relations. Last week, a U.S. intelligence report said Washington officials believe Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman approved of the move to kill Washington Post columnist Jamal Khasoggi. The Biden administration then placed sanctions and travel bans on key Saudi figures. Do you think this is a step in the right direction?
8. How tough do you think Biden will be especially when it comes to the likes of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia? What do you think he should demand from them?
9. In your book, American Nero, you noted how Trump's narcissism, unlawfulness and authoritarianism undermined the rule of law. And this was even before the insurrection at the Capitol happened. What kind of ethical leadership do you hope to see from President Biden for American society to truly heal, as well as for the restoration of democratic values and institutions not only in the U.S. but around the world?
We'll wrap up the interview here. Dr. Richard W. Painter, S. Walter Richey Professor of Corporate Law, University of Minnesota, and former chief ethics lawyer to President George W. Bush. Thank you for your time.