SEOUL -- An explainer on the Rising Sun Flag published on the Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on May 24 has drawn sharp criticism from news organizations in South Korea, with one of them calling it a "distortion of the facts."
The ministry piece, titled "The Rising Sun Flag As Part Of Japanese Culture," states that Rising Sun Flags "are widely accepted in the international community." A representative of South Korea's Foreign Ministry, however, commented, "We think Japan knows very well that its Rising Sun Flag is recognized by neighboring countries as a symbol of its past militarism and imperialism. The Japanese government must face history with humility."
The explanation, available in both Japanese and English, introduces the Rising Sun Flag as a design that "has been widely used in Japan for a long time." It goes on to say that "the flags of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) employ the design of the Rising Sun," and that Rising Sun Flags "are widely accepted in the international community."
South Korean media heavily criticized the information. Yonhap News Agency ran an article with the headline "War Crime Flag Promoted," which stated, "There is no real mention that the Rising Sun Flag, a war crime flag, was used by Japanese forces during the imperialist period." The Chosun Ilbo, a major South Korean paper, said Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was "distorting the truth" with its claims of the flag's international acceptance as a symbol of the presence of the Self-Defense Forces vessels and units.
Japan chose not to participate in naval displays at the 2018 International Fleet Review held in October off of Jeju, South Korea, after the South Korean government requested Japanese forces refrain from flying the Rising Sun Flag at the event. However, at the 2019 International Fleet Review in waters off of Qingdao, Shandong Province, in China, the JMSDF vessel Akizuki-class destroyer JS Suzutsuki sailed at the event with the Rising Sun Flag hoisted.
(Japanese original by Chiharu Shibue, Seoul Bureau)