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Japan's wartime flag
Publication Date : 10-08-2013
The Japanese government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reportedly moving to permit the use of the wartime rising-sun flag--a symbol of horror to Asian victims of Japanese colonial aggression. If a recent report by the Sankei Shimbun, a conservative Japanese daily, is true, it shows the true colours of the right-wing, revisionist Abe government again.
Abe implied he was denying Japan’s imperialist aggression against its Asian neighbours when he impudently claimed that there was no established definition of invasion, either academically or internationally, earlier in the year. His government’s insensitivity culminated in Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso’s recent proposal to surreptitiously revise Japan’s postwar pacifist constitution by following the example of the Nazis, focusing on war-banning Article 9.
A conflict over the use of the wartime flag came to the fore when the Korean Football Association lodged a complaint against Japanese soccer fans for unfurling the flag during an East Asian Cup match last month. South Korean soccer fans countered the Japanese with a banner that read: “There is no future for a people that have forgotten their past.”
The Sankei Shimbun claimed that the wartime flag, along with the official flag featuring only a red sun on a white background, was internationally accepted as symbolising Japan. Korea, China and some other Asian countries, if not the entire world, would beg to differ.
To the victims of Japan’s militarism in those countries, the wartime flag evokes the horror of being mobilised to the frontlines of war, military brothels or mining pits. How could the daily say it was rude of Koreans to liken the flag to Nazi Germany’s swastika armband?
Koreans like to compare Japan with Germany, more for their postwar differences than for their wartime similarities. To Koreans, Germany appears to have made a clean break from its wartime past. In addition to making atonement to Jewish holocaust victims, it has banned the use of the swastika, the “Heil Hitler” Nazi greeting and Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. German children are brought to concentration camps to learn of their country’s wartime past.
When the image of German children on their field trips to concentration camps is juxtaposed against that of Japanese cabinet members paying homage to Class A war criminals at the Yasukuni Shrine, it should not be too difficult to understand why Koreans are so strong in what the Japanese daily called their “anti-Japanese nationalism” in its report on the use of the wartime flag. It warned the Korean antipathy against Japan could hurt bilateral military cooperation.
So be it. Apparently, the Japanese daily is unaware that few Koreans want their country to be closely linked to Japan militarily. Instead, Koreans, who do not want to be victimised again by a wild right-wing Japanese desire to dominate Asia, would like to see their country keep Japan at arm’s length, be it militarily or not.