Japan should refrain from flying the “Rising Sun” flag on a warship in a fleet review planned in South Korea next week, a North Korean propaganda Web site said yesterday, joining South Koreans in the latest spat over the countries’ colonial history.
Relations between the Koreas and Japan have long been strained by lingering resentment over Japanese colonization, territorial disputes and the issue of girls and women forced to work in Japan’s wartime brothels.
Many people in both Koreas see the red-and-white flag as a symbol of Japan’s past military aggression and its occupation of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
“The Rising Sun flag is a war-crime flag that the 20th-century Japanese imperialists used when executing their barbaric invasions into our nation and other Asian nations,” North Korea’s state-controlled Uriminjokkiri Web site said. “Planning to enter flying the Rising Sun flag is an unbearable insult and ridicule to our people.”
In South Korea, which has formally asked Japan to reconsider flying the flag, articles about the controversy are among the most widely read on social media, with the South Korean president’s office receiving 250 petitions for the Japanese ship to be barred.
The South Korean Navy yesterday said that Japanese naval ships flew the ensign when they participated in fleet reviews in 1998 and 2008, but it has asked all ships at this year’s event to display national flags and the South Korean flag.
The “Rising Sun” ensign, used by the Japanese Imperial Navy in campaigns in Asia and the Pacific before and during World War II, was adopted by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force in 1954.
Variations of the flag are used by the Japan Self-Defense Force and on the fatigues of some Japanese sailors, but some South Koreans liken the ensign to Nazi symbols such as the swastika.
Japanese officials have signaled that the flag will be flown, despite the protests.
“Hoisting of the Maritime Self-Defence Force ensign is required by law,” Katsutoshi Kawano, the chief of staff of Japan’s Self Defence Forces, told reporters on Thursday. “Members take pride in the ensign and we will never go there with the flag unhoisted.”
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