Sport: EXPLAINER: Why Japan 'rising sun' flag provokes Olympic ire

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The rising sun flag has a similar red disc but with 16 red rays coming from it. Both flags have in fact been used for a long time, dating back centuries. During the 19th Century, the rising sun symbol became the flag of the military. As such, it was flying during Japan 's imperialist expansion when it Based on a historical experience of Japanese invasion, China's reaction to the rising sun flag at the Olympics could be similar to South Korea's. After the Japanese military took the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937, Japanese troops embarked on a months-long campaign of murder, rape and looting

"The Rising Sun flag is akin to a symbol of the devil to Asians and Koreans, just like how the swastika is a symbol of Nazis which reminds Europeans of invasion and horror." The Korean Sports & Olympic Committee told CNN Friday that it had not yet made an official request to Tokyo 2020 or the International However, South Korea sees the Rising Sun flag as a symbol of Japanese imperialism and war atrocities. Those who use the flag often draw the ire of South Koreans. Last month, for instance, Sean Ono Lennon -- the son of Yoko Ono and John Lennon -- found himself at the center of

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Japan considers the “rising sun” flag part of its history. But some in the Koreas, China and other Asian countries say the flag is a reminder of Japan’s wartime atrocities, and is comparable to the Nazi swastika.

FILE -  In this Oct. 14, 2012, file photo, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) escort ship © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2012, file photo, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) escort ship "Kurama," left, navigates behind destroyer "Yudachi," with a rising sun flag, during a fleet review in water off Sagami Bay, south of Tokyo. Japan’s “rising sun” flag is raising anger at the Olympics, with some of the host nation’s neighbors calling for it to be banned during the Tokyo Games, which start Friday, July 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye, File)

That's why the flag has created anger at the Olympics, with some of the host nation’s neighbors calling for it to be banned during the Tokyo Games, which start Friday.

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EXPLAINER : Why Japan ' rising sun ' flag provokes Olympic ire . Japan considers the “ rising sun ” flag part of its history. There’s little prospect that ties between Seoul and Tokyo will improve any time soon.

English News Lesson on Rising Sun Flag : South Korea wants 2020 Olympics Rising Sun flag ban - FREE worksheets, online activities, listening in 7 Levels This follows a statement by Japan 's Olympics organising committee that it sees no problem with the flag . The committee said: "The Rising Sun flag is widely used in Japan and it is not considered to be a political statement, so it is not viewed as a prohibited item." A South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said: "The Japanese know full well that their neighbours regard the Rising Sun flag as a symbol of Japan 's militaristic and imperial past.

There’s little prospect that ties between Seoul and Tokyo will improve any time soon. But the flag dispute may ease. Some experts say the COVID-19 restrictions that have banned spectators at most Olympic venues stadiums may prevent the disagreement from growing.

Here’s a look at the “rising sun" flag and the long-running unease it has caused in Northeast Asia.

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ORIGIN

There are two rising sun flags associated with Japan, whose very name in Japanese means “the sun's origin.”

One is the country's national flag, called “nisshoki,” or “hinomaru,” which has a red disc on a white background. Few have a problem with this.

The other one also has a red disc, but it is surrounded by 16 rays that extend outward. Called “kyokujitsuki,” this one has led to vehement protests from some of Japan’s neighbors.

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Rising Sun flag was adopted way before pro-fascists came to power in Japan , and was a symbol of Japanese military during and after Meiji period, including Taisho democracy and World War I, where Japan fought on Antanta's side. And its variations are still flown as naval ensign and banners of Self-Defence forces. This rising sun flag is heavily connected with japan 's militaristic history, and it is very offensive to all the people in east asia because of their pillaging under that flag .

A South Korean committee on sports wants the Japanese “ Rising Sun ” flag to be banned from next year’s Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo because it represents a symbol of "imperialism and militarism” to South Korea and evokes memories of Japanese atrocities during the first half of the 20th century and World War 2. The Japanese organizers have refused any ban on the flag . The official national flag of Japan is a red circle on a white background and symbolizes Japan as the “Land of the Rising Sun .”.

Both flags have been used for centuries. But disputes about the “rising sun” flag date back to the early part of the 20th century. That’s when Japan’s imperial navy used it as its official flag as the nation colonized the Korean Peninsula and invaded or occupied China and other Asian countries until its World War II defeat in 1945.

It’s still Japan’s navy flag, used by the Maritime Self-Defense Force and, in a slightly modified version, by the Ground-Self Defense Force since 1954.

These days, ultra-rightists in Japan often use the flag during rallies or on social media.

FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2020, file photo, a visitor carrying a rising sun flag enters Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo as Japan marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Japan’s “rising sun” flag is raising anger at the Olympics, with some of the host nation’s neighbors calling for it to be banned during the Tokyo Games, which start Friday, July 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2020, file photo, a visitor carrying a rising sun flag enters Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo as Japan marked the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Japan’s “rising sun” flag is raising anger at the Olympics, with some of the host nation’s neighbors calling for it to be banned during the Tokyo Games, which start Friday, July 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko, File)

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“The Rising Sun flag is akin to a symbol of the devil to Asians and Koreans, just like how the swastika is a symbol of Nazis which reminds Europeans of invasion and horror,” he reportedly said. The Rising Sun , which was used as the official military flag by the now-defunct Imperial Japanese Army and Navy until the end of World War II, has become a source of contention between the two countries in recent years. South Korean activists and lawmakers have claimed it is a symbol of Japan ’s past militarism that conjures painful memories of Japan ’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

CONFLICTING VIEWS

Japan’s government emphasizes that both rising sun flags use the sun as a motif and were used across the country even before the wartime period. Even today, the rising sun with rays flag motif is used in everyday life in Japan, such as to celebrate a big catch by fishermen, childbirth and other festivities, the government says.

FILE - In this July 20, 2019, file photo, protesters tear a Japanese rising sun flag during a rally denouncing the Japanese government's decision on their exports to South Korea in front of Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea.  Japan’s “rising sun” flag is raising anger at the Olympics, with some of the host nation’s neighbors calling for it to be banned during the Tokyo Games, which start Friday, July 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this July 20, 2019, file photo, protesters tear a Japanese rising sun flag during a rally denouncing the Japanese government's decision on their exports to South Korea in front of Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. Japan’s “rising sun” flag is raising anger at the Olympics, with some of the host nation’s neighbors calling for it to be banned during the Tokyo Games, which start Friday, July 23, 2021. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, File)

“An argument that it is a political statement or a symbol of militarism is completely irrelevant. I believe there is a big misunderstanding,” now-Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said in 2013, when he served as chief cabinet secretary.

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Japan’s neighbors view it differently.

In 2019, South Korea formally requested that the International Olympic Committee ban the flag at the Tokyo Olympics. Seoul said that the flag recalls the “scars and pain” of Asian people who experienced Japan’s wartime military aggression, similar to how the swastika "reminds Europeans of the nightmare of World War II.”

North Korea’s state media, not known for understatement, have accused Japan of trying to turn “the flag of war criminals” into a symbol of peace at the Olympics, saying that is “an intolerable insult to our people and other Asian people.”

China is also highly sensitive to perceived slights from the Japanese government, individuals and companies. However, official outrage over history has diminished somewhat, while China’s political, economic and cultural rivalry with the United States and European democracies has increased in recent years. When it comes to the flag, it’s clearly less sensitive in China than in South Korea.

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USE AT THE GAMES

On Saturday, when South Korea removed banners at the Olympic athletes’ village in Tokyo that the IOC ruled to be provocative, Seoul said it received an IOC promise that the displaying of the “rising sun” flag would also be banned at stadiums and other Olympic venues.

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FILE - In this April 25, 2013, file photo, members from conservative civic organizations burn a Japanese rising sun flag during a rally to protest Japanese lawmakers who made a visit to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, in front of Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea.  Japan’s “rising sun” flag is raising anger at the Olympics, with some of the host nation’s neighbors calling for it to be banned during the Tokyo Games, which start Friday, July 23, 2021. (Lee Jung-hoon/Yonhap via AP, File): Tokyo Olympics South Korea Japan Rising Sun Flag © Provided by Associated Press Tokyo Olympics South Korea Japan Rising Sun Flag

But South Korean media later reported that some activists carried the “rising sun” flag near the athletes’ village. Media reports also said Japan’s organizing committee ruled the flag isn’t banned inside Olympic stadiums.

FILE - In this  July 17, 2021, file photo, banners with the words © Provided by Associated Press FILE - In this July 17, 2021, file photo, banners with the words "I still have the support of 50 million Korean people," are removed from balconies at the the Olympic athletes' village in Tokyo. South Korea removed the banners that the IOC ruled to be provocative, Seoul said it received an IOC promise that the displaying of the “rising sun” flag would also be banned at stadiums and other Olympic venues. (Jin Sung-chul/Yonhap via AP, File)

“It would be inappropriate to ban the flag from naval exchanges because a version is used by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces,” Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said. “However, you would not expect the Tokyo Olympics hosts or Japanese athletes to use the rising sun emblem because it is not the national flag.”

Ties between Seoul and Tokyo, both U.S. allies, have suffered for years in part because of disputes over history and trade.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office announced Monday that Moon had decided not to visit Japan for the Olympics because the two countries failed to find enough common ground to support a leaders' summit.

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WILL THIS GET WORSE?

Some experts say the flag dispute isn’t as serious as other points of contention, like Japan’s wartime mobilization of Koreans into sexual slavery or forced labor, and won’t likely worsen ties.

The flag dispute can still flare, however, if anger among anti-Japan civic groups in the South draw a backlash among the Japanese public, says Lee Myon-woo, deputy head of the private Sejong Institute near Seoul. Lee says South Korea should refrain from a “too excessive, political interpretation” of the flag because there is no sign that Japan is reviving past militarism.

But Bong Youngshik, a research fellow at Yonsei University Institute for North Korean Studies, says the flag wouldn’t have become a major issue if Japan had accepted its neighbors’ demands for making a more “sincere apology” over its wartime abuse.

The dispute may not have much kindling to fuel it, though, for one key reason: The lack of spectators at nearly all Olympics venues means no one is waving that flag — which means the dispute may die down for the time being.

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Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. More AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2020-tokyo-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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