On August 8, the Japanese conservative daily Sankei Shimbun reported that the Japanese government is moving to officially use the wartime national flag called “Rising Sun flag” symbolizing imperial Japan.
According to the Japanese daily, the Abe government decided to clarify its position after the Korea Football Association filed a protest against Japanese soccer fans for unfurling the rising sun flag during a match versus Korea in the East Asian Cup in Korea last month.
Moves to allow the use of the Rising Sun Flag are expected to aggravate already frosty relations with Korea and China, where the flag is seen as the equivalent of the Nazi swastika in Europe. Such moves will also buttress the far right supported by the government of Shinzo Abe, which wants to revise Japan's pacifist postwar constitution and retract apologies for wartime and colonial brutalities. Japan’s constitution puts tight limits on military activities. In fact, relations between Korea and Japan have deteriorated further in recent months since the right-wing Abe government took office in Japan.
The political circle in Korea unanimously criticized the Japanese government’s move to allow the use of the Rising Sun Flag.
"It is a sheer act of disrespect to history that the Japanese government is trying to officially recognize the flag symbolizing their war criminals, which cannot be justified under any pretext," said Min Hyun-joo, a lawmaker and spokeswoman of the ruling Saenuri Party.
Bae Jae-jeung, a lawmaker and spokeswoman of the main opposition Democratic Party, also said, "From the recent series of moves, one can feel a dark force that Japan is trying to remove its yoke of a war criminal and head toward a revival of militarism," adding, "It is time for the international community to issue a strong response to the Japanese government, which does not sincerely repent of its past."
Sankei claimed the old flag has become "globally accepted" with even the U.S. military, which fought against Japan during World War II, raising no objections. The daily added that the Korean government's attempts to oppose use of the flag is based on "anti-Japanese nationalism" and even warned it could hurt bilateral military cooperation between Korea and Japan.
For years after Japan's defeat in World War II, the Japanese government prohibited the use of the flag in public. In 1954, however, Japan's Self-Defense Forces began using a modified form featuring eight red sunbeams instead of 16. Japan's navy flies the flag on its vessels. In the private sector, the rising sun flag has only been used by ultra-right-wing groups, but recently more widely used on cups and T-shirts and for sports matches.