“Symbol of the devil,” is what people call the Rising Sun flag. In general, flags may symbolize different things and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. To the people of South Korea, the Rising Sun flag triggers painful memories whereas, considering the historical significance, the same flag is an emblem of culture in Japan. However, in a public event meant for peaceful sportsmanship like the 2020 Summer Olympics, it may come across as disrespectful to put up such flags and cause unwanted bad blood.”
The 2020 Summer Olympics has been set long ago to be held in Tokyo, Japan. But recently, controversies have been stirred as Japan announced that they would be hanging the Rising Sun flag at venues. In response, South Korea’s committee for sports expressed unpleasant views and requested the flag to be banned from venues at the Olympics. An Min-suk, the chair of the National Assembly’s Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee also went further to compare the flag to the Swastika, which is a symbol of Nazi Germany. However, Tokyo 2020—the organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympics—refused to ban the flag saying in an official statement, “The flag itself is not considered to be a political statement, so it is not viewed as a prohibited item.”
In the past, the Rising Sun flag was used by Japan during wars and was officially adopted as a war flag of the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy. As of today, it is still flown by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and a modified version of it is used by the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force. In addition, in a more modern day, it is often used in commercial products and advertisements as a symbol of tradition and good fortune. Regardless, its adoption by Japanese military forces hints that there are still implications of war that can be drawn from the flag.
On the other hand, the flag reminds the people of South Korea of the unpleasant past and disputes between the two countries. During the Japanese colonial era, a large number of South Koreans were forced to engage in manufacturing ships and aircrafts for Japanese companies and numerous citizens were murdered or enslaved. Even though a treaty was signed in the past to settle the wartime issues, a large majority of the people still feel that it was not a fair agreement. Given the fact that the Rising Sun flag was used during those devastating times, it seems reasonable for South Koreans to take offense at the presence of the flag.
Foreign media also seem to be in consensus by stating such flag that provokes negative feelings does not seem appropriate for global events like the Olympics which symbolizes peace between countries. Cable News Network (CNN) stated that “Those who use the flag often draw the ire of South Koreans,” and continued to emphasize the fact that relations between South Korea and Japan are already on thin ice due to recent disputes on trade. Despite the fact that Japan continues to claim that the flag is not meant to be a political statement but merely a display of culture, it only seems fair-minded to at least give a nod towards the direction of South Koreans when it comes to sensitive issues as such. It is not as if the Japanese government is unaware of how provoking the flag would be to South Koreans and refusing to disallow the flag would be an act of disrespect, pouring oil on fire.