S. Korean Navy stands firm in opposition to Japan’s wartime flag at naval event

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Sept 30, 2018 - 18:17
  • Updated : Sept 30, 2018 - 18:17

The Navy said Sunday it will continue to consult with Japan to prevent a Japanese warship from carrying a controversial imperialistic flag to an international naval review in South Korea next month, amid public outcry over what many South Koreans see as the symbol of wartime aggression. 
Activists protest against Japan’s plan to carry a controversial imperialistic flag to an international naval event in South Korea next month, at a rally in central Seoul on Sept. 27. (Yonhap)

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry also asked Tokyo to consider negative public sentiment toward the Rising Sun Flag, which reminds South Koreans of Japan’s militarism, through diplomatic channels, according to an official from the ministry.

The Navy said there is no change in the Navy’s opposition to the Japanese naval ship flying the Rising Sun Flag and it is consulting with the Japanese side.

Another South Korean military source said he expected Japan to carry the flag into Jeju waters and then take it down during the actual review.

The southern island of Jeju will stage the International Fleet Review from Oct. 10-14, and the Navy said warships from 15 nations, including Japan, the United States and China, will participate in the first such event in South Korea since 2008.

The Navy earlier requested all countries participating in the upcoming naval event to raise their own national flags as well as the national flag of South Korea.

In response, Japan’s Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said Friday that Japan would still hoist the Rising Sun Flag despite the South Korean government’s request not to do so.

“As a matter of course, we will raise it,” Onodera told a news conference, noting that Maritime Self-Defense Force ships are obliged by national law to raise the flag.

There are no measures to ban a Japanese naval ship from carrying the Rising Sun Flag, as every country’s naval force is entitled to carry its own military flag under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Meanwhile, controversy has intensified in South Korea, with more than 160 online petitions submitted to Cheong Wa Dae’s website urging the government to ban the Japanese warships from entering South Korean territory if they raise the Rising Sun Flag.

The flag was used by the Imperial Japanese Army until the end of World War II. The Japanese naval force adopted the flag when the organization was launched in 1954.

Historical issues related to atrocities committed by Japan during World War II and Japan’s colonial rule from 1910-45 remain a source of tensions between South Korea and Japan, though they enjoy close cultural ties and seek to enhance cooperation on the security front.