South Korea has formally asked the International Olympic Committee to ban the Japanese “rising sun” flag at next year’s Tokyo Games, calling it a symbol of Japan’s brutal wartime past and comparing it with the Nazi swastika.
South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Wednesday said it sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach expressing “deep disappointment and concern” over Japanese plans to allow the flag in stadiums and other facilities during the 2020 Olympics.
South Korean Olympic officials last month urged the local organizing committee to ban the flag, but Tokyo organizers responded by saying it was widely used in Japan, was not considered a political statement and “it is not viewed as a prohibited item.”
The flag, portraying a red sun with 16 rays extending outward, is resented by many South Koreans, who still harbor animosity over Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The ministry said in its letter to Bach, it described the flag as an unmistakable political symbol that’s embraced by Japanese rightwing protesters who vent anger toward Koreans and other foreigners. It said the flag recalls “historic scars and pain” for the people of South Korea, China and other Asian countries that experienced Japan’s wartime military aggression, similar to how the “(swastika) reminds Europeans of the nightmare of World War II.”
The ministry said it also pointed out that FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, has banned the flag in international matches.
“Furthermore, we emphasized that the use of the rising sun flag during the Tokyo Olympics would be a direct violation of the Olympic spirit promoting world peace and love for humanity, and that the IOC should have the Tokyo organizing committee withdraw its (current) stance on the flag and prepare strict measures to prevent it from being brought to stadiums,” the ministry said.
Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee didn’t immediately react to South Korea’s request to the IOC to ban the flag at the games.