South Korea's Olympic Committee says it has removed flags from its Olympic village in Tokyo because they recalled negative memories of a past military conflict between Japan and Korea.
The South Korean delegation stated that it was complying with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after it ruled that it was provocative. According to The Associated Press, the flags referenced a 16th-century battle between the two countries and drew criticism from Japanese far-right groups.
The IOC told South Korea's Olympic Committee that the flags evoked images of war and violated Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter, which says "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."
The committee stated that it agreed to remove the banners after the IOC agreed to apply the same restrictions to rising sun flags and prohibit them from being displayed at all Olympic sites.
"Under the agreement, the committee will not raise any further debate to allow athletes to fully focus on competition, while the IOC will ban the displaying of the rising sun flag at all Olympic venues so that no political problems would arise," the South Korean committee said in a statement.
South Korea was the first to formally request that the rising sun flag be banned from the 2019 Olympics, equating it to the Nazi symbol. South Korean Olympic officials later explained that Tokyo's organizing committee had rejected their efforts to remove the flag, claiming that it was widely used in Japan and was not deemed a political statement.
The flags were displayed from the balconies of the South Korean athletes' rooms at the Athletes Village. They spelled out the message: "I still have the support of 50 million Korean people."
The reference was a paraphrase of the words of a Korean admiral during the 1592-1598 Japanese invasion of Korea. The admiral told a Korean official, "I still have 12 battleships left," then destroyed a larger fleet of Japanese ships.
The Olympics officially start July 23.