Asia Minute: Flag Flap Divides Japan and South Korea

07 October, 2018, 22:42 | Author: Myra Gill
  • S-Korean lawmaker has proposed bill to ban the debated symbol

Japan is considering whether it will participate in an worldwide fleet review in South Korea next week, the top government spokesman said on Friday, amid demands for it to refrain from flying its "Rising Sun" flag on a warship.

The South Korean Navy said on Friday 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 naval review to display national flags and the South Korean flag.

When asked whether South Korea could raise the issue of Japan's usage of the flag with the United Nations, Kang said her ministry will review the "possible and appropriate options" before deciding whether to take stronger worldwide action.

A South Korean activist protests against Japan's plan to send a warship flying the Rising Sun flag to a naval event on Jeju Island in front of Japan's consular office on the island on October 4, 2018.

But, Japanese officials stated that the flag - whose design portrays a red sun with 16 rays - is mandatory for Japan's naval ships under domestic laws, adding that the flag is recognized as identification for the Japanese military under an worldwide maritime convention.

Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya told reporters that Japan had notified the South Korean government of its decision. All participants will be flying their national flags.


The flag issue is the latest row between the countries. After experts failed to propose another alternative, then Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida chose to use the rising sun, saying it was already world famous, according to the defense ministry.

North Korea on Friday joined South Korea in demanding that Japan not fly the flag, which both see as a symbol of the country's past military aggression.

Japanese officials have signaled the flag will be flown, despite the protests.

Hundreds of protesters on Wednesday expressed anger over Japanese plans to bring the rising-sun flag to the fleet review during a weekly rally in Seoul denouncing sexual slavery by Japan's World War II military.

Japan's absence in the worldwide fleet review is "regrettable and the decision should not affect maintaining the promising ties between the two countries' Navies", they said.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha had urged Japan to consider how South Koreans remember its brutal 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula. "Tell him to be careful".

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