South Korea asks for ban on Japan’s ‘Rising Sun’ flag

AFP, SEOUL

Thu, Sep 12, 2019 - Page 16

A controversial flag yesterday became the latest sticking point in an intensifying dispute between South Korea and Japan as Seoul asked the International Olympic Committee to ban its use at the next year’s Tokyo Games.

The “Rising Sun” flag has been an ensign for the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force since 1954, but in much of East Asia, it is seen as a symbol of the country’s military aggression during World War II.

However, Tokyo Games organizers last week dismissed the claims that the emblem is a political statement and said that they would allow the flag at the Olympics.

That caused an uproar in South Korea, prompting it to lodge a formal complaint with the committee.

World soccer’s governing body FIFA has already banned the flag’s use.

“We explained the history behind the flag and demanded it be banned during the Olympics,” the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said in a statement.

The flag was a “clear political symbol” that stirs up painful memories of Japan’s wartime atrocities, the ministry said, likening it to the “nightmares that the Nazi’s swastika gives to Europeans.”

Koreans remain deeply resentful of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula and the neighbors — both of them US allies — are embroiled in a long-running dispute over wartime history.

The row spiraled into a bitter trade war in the past few months after a series of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese firms to pay for forced labor during Tokyo’s colonization.

The feud has seen Japan impose new restrictions on exports crucial to South Korean tech giants in July and led to the neighbors removing each other from their lists of trusted trade partners.

South Koreans have since mounted a widespread boycott of Japanese goods, which saw a plunge in sales of Japanese vehicles and forced several airlines to suspend routes to the country because of falling demand.

Some South Korean lawmakers have pushed for a boycott of the Tokyo Olympics and a travel ban on the country, citing supposed radiation risks from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster.