Lew Seok-choon, a sociology professor at Yonsei University, led the reform committee of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party in 2017. / Korea Times file


A Yonsei University sociology professor is under heavy fire for remarks about “comfort women” during a recent lecture.

The student council vowed to take all available measures against the professor, while civic groups and politicians slammed his comments.

According to an audio file of a Sept. 19 lecture by Lew Seok-choon released by a local media outlet Pressian, a professor at the Department of Sociology of the school, he described Korean victims of sexual slavery as “kind of prostitutes,” adding that Japan did not directly force them into military brothels.

Surprised by his remarks, one student asked if the professor saw comfort women as equal to modern day prostitutes. The professor answered, “In the end, similar.”

The professor made another controversial remark to another student who objected to his claims.

“They lived a life of hostess and that’s how they started it. It’s pretty much the same now. It is not like how it was done in the old times. If you are curious, you can try,” the local media reported.

Lew added that comfort women’s testimonies were all lies and that a North Korea-related organization taught them to say these things.

Lew’s controversial remarks were made while he was referring to a book titled “Anti-Japan Tribalism” written by Lee Young-hoon, a professor emeritus at Seoul National University, the main idea of which is Korea’s modernization owes some things to Japanese colonization.

Lew said he agreed with Lee’s argument that everything about wartime forced slavery and comfort women were made-up stories.

“I don’t understand why Koreans cause so many problems by expanding and reproducing false stories. We have to stop acting like victims,” the local media said.

Yonsei University’s student council immediately posted a message denouncing him and his remarks made during the lecture.

“We strongly condemn Prof. Lew’s inappropriate comments and we are preparing every measure to take action,” the council said on Facebook, Saturday.

“The student body at the Department of Sociology is discussing matters related to the issue and it will be put on the agenda at the student government’s regular meeting Monday.”

Representative Yoon Mee-hyang of the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance of the Issue of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, which Prof. Lew called a North Korea-linked group, is set to take Lew to court. The non-governmental organization advocates for comfort women.

“Lew abused his power as a professor to teach false information to many students. I will ask for an investigation and compensation. If there is any student who has the recorded file, please send it to me,” Yoon wrote on Facebook.

Lew refused to comment.

The school is also set to decide whether to punish the professor for defaming the school’s reputation.

“After figuring out what exactly happened during the lecture, the school will come up with a disciplinary measure if necessary,” an official said.

Meanwhile, four political parties, including the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), called for the professor to be dismissed.


By Jae-Heun Kim, Koreatimes