That is what's happening with Japan's climbing sun flag and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. And also the the strongest criticism is from southern Korea - wherein some politicians also compare it come the Nazi swastika.

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Critics say the flag is flown by pan who desire to romanticise and also rewrite the human being rights abuses by Japanese forces.

South Korea desires it banned at the games - yet the 2020 organisers say the flag is "widely offered in Japan" and is "not a politics statement".

Japan's nationwide flag is simply a red disc on a white elevator - and no-one has actually a difficulty with that one.

Image source, Getty Images

The rising sun flag has actually a comparable red disc yet with 16 red rays coming from it. Both flags have actually in fact been offered for a lengthy time, dating back centuries.

During the 19th Century, the climbing sun symbol came to be the flag that the military. As such, it to be flying throughout Japan's imperialist expansion when it inhabited Korea and part of China.

During people War Two, it came to be the flag the the marine - and that's greatly where it got its controversial reputation. Japanese troops lived in much of Asia throughout the war, delivering out atrocities against local people.

Today, it's still the flag the the country's navy and a slightly various version is offered for the constant military.

The Japanese ascendancy was one of economic exploitation and also hundreds of countless Koreans to be pressed into compelled labour to assist the Japanese growth in other parts the Asia.

The brutal regime also saw hundreds of girls and also young women required to work-related in army brothels set up because that Japanese soldiers before and during world War Two.

Known euphemistically as "comfort women", lock were compelled into sexual slavery. Beside from korean victims, the Japanese army likewise forced girls from Taiwan, China and also the Philippines into the brothels.

Many south Koreans associate the climbing sun flag v a lengthy list of war crimes and oppression - and see Japan's ongoing use the the symbol together emblematic of Tokyo's failure to deal with its past.

Image source, mar Evans picture Library
Image caption, These oriental women were found by us Marines at a "comfort station" in Okinawa in April 1945

The flag is "one object in a tapestry of various other South korean complaints concerning Japan's viewed inability - or unwillingness - to accept obligation for colonial transgressions," defines Korea analyst Ellen Swicord.

South Korea's foreign ministry has defined the flag as a prize of Japanese "imperialism and also militarism".

Meanwhile, a parliament committee because that sports stated it was "akin to a symbol of the devil to Asians and Koreans, as with the swastika is a prize of Nazis i m sorry reminds europe of invasion of horror".

Based ~ above a historic experience the Japanese invasion, China's reaction to the increasing sun flag at the Olympics can be comparable to south Korea's.

After the Japanese army took the Chinese city the Nanjing in 1937, Japanese troops took on a months-long campaign of murder, rape and looting in what came to be one that the worst massacres of the war.

According come Chinese estimates, about 300,000 world were killed, numerous of them women and children, and also around 20,000 women raped. However there's little protest indigenous China about the flag.

The factor is simple politics, describes Prof David Arase, indigenous the Nanjing campus that Johns Hopkins University.

Chinese media is state-controlled and Beijing is currently working to boost ties through Tokyo. In fact, Chinese president Xi Jinping is planning to visit Japan in the spring to satisfy the brand-new Japanese emperor.

"That way China does no make a large issue the end of it, and also hence people wouldn't it is in primed for any outrage over that flag," mr Arase says.

The increasing sun flag has actually been used as a traditional national symbol of Japan for centuries, and also appears in advertisements and also on advertising products.

In Germany, the swastika to be only provided when the Nazis to be in power. It is currently banned in Germany, and the Nazi price is only offered by extremist groups.

Image source, EPA

Yet also though the climbing sun flag has a longer history, "no-one in Japan uses the climbing sun flag for any type of purpose various other than romanticising and also rewriting the horrible person rights abuses committed under the Japanese empire," suggests Koichi Nakano, professor of political science at Sophia college in Tokyo.

He argues a much better comparison than the swastika is the Confederate flag in the US. The flag was used in the American civil battle by southern states that wanted to save slavery.

The flag is not banned, and also is still flown across southern states, yet critics speak it is a prize of racial segregation - and perceived superiority.

There is even an explanation by the foreign ministry, i m sorry looks in ~ the overall history of the flag without any kind of references to its duty during civilization War Two.

"The style of the increasing sun flag is widely used throughout Japan, such as 'good catch' flags provided by fishermen, celebratory flags for childbirth and seasonal festivities, and also flags of Japan marine Self-Defense pressure vessels.

"Claims the the flag is an expression of politics assertions or a prize of militarism room absolutely false."

Japan's reluctance come at a time whereby relations in between South Korea and also Japan are at a new low.

Over the summer, a diplomatic feud over wartime labour compensation snowballed right into a full-blown trade row in between the 2 sides.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's refuse to act is checked out by part as an attempt to please an ultra-conservative faction.

"The current Japanese federal government is letting excessive nationalism to bring on and also is tacitly sustaining its expression," defines Harrison Kim, assistant professor in background at the college of Hawaii.

Yet Japan's alleged i can not qualify to properly deal with its brutal imperial past "is no the fault of the Japan alone", that says.

"The Japanese government did not have to resort to reparations and redress the would accordingly deal through its very own past," says Mr Kim.

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The result, he argues, is that Japan has actually not implemented a permanent way of "memorialising and also apologising for its imperial crimes - no in law, not in education, and not in culture".