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College students fined after burning 'Rising Sun' flag in anti-Japan protest

June 17, 2024 - 16:40 By Yoon Min-sik

(Herald DB)

The Supreme Court on Monday upheld an earlier ruling that found three college students guilty of holding an illegal protest near the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, during which they set fire to a controversial flag regarded as a symbol of Japanese imperialism.

The defendants were found guilty of violating the Assembly and Demonstration Act, which bans protests that had not been reported to the police in advance. The court did not accept their claim that their action was not a protest, and fined them 1 million won ($725) each.

The Article 109 of the Criminal Act bans the profanation of foreign national flag or emblem, which was not applied here since the flag is flown by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, and not currently by the Japanese government.

On June 1, 2021, the defendants gathered in Jongno-gu, near the embassy to shout slogans, "We decry the Japanese government for claiming Dokdo is their territory," and burned the flag. It was found that they are part of the Korean University Progressive Union, a left-leaning university students' group.

The Rising Sun Flag, consisting of a red disc on a white background, with sixteen red rays emanating from the disc, is a controversial in many Asian countries, where it is seen a symbol of the Japanese Empire.

The design is particularly a touchy issue in South Korea, which was colonized by Japan between 1910 and 1945, and still has widespread resentment over war crimes it committed during World War II.

This includes the issue of women forced into sexual slavery by Japan during the war.