On September 18th 2022, South Korean national broadcaster JTBC reported on the distortion and misrepresentation of history present within Harvard Business School's core curriculum with regards to Japanese colonization of Korea between 1910 and 1945. A Harvard Business School publication titled "Korea" is part of a required class during the second semester of the school's MBA program. This statement demands the school to correct the misrepresentation within the publication and publish a revised version before the current first-year class engages with the publication in 2023.
The publication adopts the stance that credits the illegal occupation by Japan, noting that "Korea became increasingly industrialized, and transportation and power infrastructure improved" during the Japanese occupation. It also highlights the seemingly favorable consequence of the occupation by adding that the Korean "educational, administrative, and financial systems were also modernized."
What it fails to mention is that the very efforts to industrialize and build infrastructure was a by-product of the Japanese treatment of Korea as its military supply base during the Sino-Japanese War. To serve the purpose of this very war, Japan subjected millions of Koreans to murderously brutal forced labor and sex slavery. It is extremely regrettable that the publication sheds bright light on the so-called industrialization effort during the colonization without providing proper historical context as to its purpose and its victims.
Although the historical facts detailing the brutality of Imperial Japan in Korea are abundant and well known, it is the case that some of them have been subjects of debate and dispute between the two countries for decades. What is evident and therefore regrettable is that in introducing Korean history to its students, Harvard Business School chooses to represent the viewpoint of the country's former colonizer without giving proper weight to the impact of the illegal and brutal reality of its rule.
It is notable that the group of six co-authors for this publication does not include anyone with a Korean background while it does include a researcher from Harvard's Japan Research Center visiting from a Japanese university. It must also be noted that numerous requests of revision from Harvard Business School students in the past have been repeatedly ignored by the school administration.
By adopting an insensitive and offensive viewpoint usually reserved for right-wing politicians of the country's former colonizer, Harvard Business School is failing to provide its students the opportunity to understand Korea in a balanced manner. What is more, JTBC's exposure of this misrepresentation of history in the school's curriculum is generating serious concerns about the integrity of Harvard's history education among the general public in Korea. As current and former members of the Harvard community, the contributors of this statement find this development extremely regrettable and offer our support in making the appropriate corrections.
This statement requests Harvard Business School to revise its "Korea" case by introducing the historical facts regarding the human suffering of the Korean people as well as the illegal and forceful nature of the colonization. We ask that the revision takes place before the current first year students engage with this reading in their second semester that begins in January 2023.