SEOUL, Oct. 2 (UPI) -- South Koreans are protesting the Japanese government's decision to fly its Rising Sun flag, associated with Japanese wartime aggression, at an upcoming naval fleet review in Jeju.
At a protest in Seoul on Monday, liberal activists expressed outrage over Japan's plan to raise the controversial flag at the 2018 International Fleet Review next week in Jeju, an event where countries display their naval prowess, according to Herald Business.
The South Korean government earlier made a request to 15 participating countries, including Japan, to fly their own national flags and the national flag of South Korea. However, Japan Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said at a press conference on Friday Tokyo will not refrain from raising the flag at the naval review, the Mainichi Newspaper reported.
Korea Freedom Federation, a conservative civic organization, released a toned-down statement to protest the entry of Japan's naval fleet with the Rising Sun flag.
"We welcome the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. However, we request Japan to scrap its plan to fly the Rising Sun flag at the maritime event," a statement read.
"The Rising Sun flag is the symbol of Japanese militarism and imperialism. Its decision to fly the Rising Sun flag goes against South Korea's wish to pursue a friendly relation with Japan."
South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon also asked Japan to refrain from flying the flag, in a speech at National Assembly on Monday.
"Japan needs to consider sensitively about what impact will the Rising Sun flag have on the minds of South Koreans and their painful memories of the colonial history," Lee said.
The flag, widely used in fashion and sports, has been a controversial symbol. Originally an official flag of the Japanese imperial military, it has been associated with atrocities of war by Japan during World War II, triggering offenses to neighboring countries like South Korea and China.