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 to the Nazi swastika.
South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said it had 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 organising committee to ban the flag, but Tokyo organisers said it was widely used in Japan, was not considered a political statement and “is not viewed as a prohibited item”.
The flag, portraying a red sun with 16 rays extending outwards, is resented by many South Koreans who still harbour animosity over Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.
In its letter to Mr Bach, the ministry described the flag as an unmistakable political symbol embraced by right-wing Japanese protesters who vent anger towards 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 2”.
The ministry said it also pointed out that Fifa, the governing body of world football, has banned the flag at international matches.
We “emphasised 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 organising committee withdraw its (current) stance on the flag and prepare strict measures to prevent it from being brought to stadiums”, the ministry said.