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Yonsei professor accused of disparaging ‘comfort women’ suspended, denies allegations

A Yonsei University professor was suspended Monday from teaching after his remarks on wartime sexual enslavement sparked controversy.

The university said Monday in a statement that Ryu Seok-chun, a sociology professor, has been suspended from teaching and that the school’s gender equality committee has launched an internal investigation.

Ryu Seok-chun, sociology professor at Yonsei University (Yonhap)
Ryu Seok-chun, sociology professor at Yonsei University (Yonhap)

Speaking about victims of Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement during his lecture on Thursday, Ryu said “Japan is not the direct assailant (of comfort women),” adding “(comfort women) were a sort of prostitution.”

To a student who questioned whether he was implying the women went voluntarily, Ryu answered “the prostitutes these days also start partly voluntarily,” asking in retort, “If you are curious, why don’t you try?”

As public fury against Ryu and calls for his expulsion mounted, Ryu issued a statement Monday explaining he did not intend to suggest prostitution to the student.

“I was explaining that prostitution has always existed due to poverty, regardless of what period, in all parts of the world,” Ryu said. “I asked the question with the intention to suggest the students, who kept on challenging me, to ‘do the research themselves.’”

In his statement, he expressed dismay at how the students had recorded the lecture and shared the file without his consent, adding he is considering taking legal action for defamation.

Ryu is also accused of characterizing the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance as a leftist-political party that is brainwashing the women to believe they are victims.

By Choi Ji-won (