Some Langley students say allowing a Japanese ‘rising sun’ flag in their classroom is offensive

Controversy erupts over Japanese flag in Langley classroom (updated)

Online petition demanding removal has collected more than 5,700 signatures

An online petition against a “rising sun” Japanese flag in a Langley classroom has collected thousands of names.

Since the Change.org petition “Take off the Sun Rise Flag in an Educational Environment” was launched by Walnut Grove Secondary School Grade 9 student B.J. Moon, more than 5,700 signatures had been collected as of Sunday morning.

In an online statement, Moon said he and other students who complained about the flag after a history teacher pinned it to a wall, are “all Koreans and descendant of a country that was colonized by Japan.”

“Thinking of the tragedies my grandparents went through, we cannot imagine how someone wouldn’t find this symbol as inhumane and unethical,” Moon said.

Moon said the teacher declined to move the flag and told them that other “Asian-descendant” students in the school might find it “disrespectful.”

They want the flag removed, “or at least [moved so it is] not widely visible from our learning environment.”

“If possible, the flag should not be on the wall, where it is seen from the hallway.”

Moon said the flag was considered “extremely offensive in countries of former Japanese imperialism as it reminds [us of] Japan’s former war crimes.”

“ … it is absolutely necessary to remember the atrocities that the Japanese committed” the message said.

Among the crimes the petition referred to was the thousands of ”comfort women” who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories like Korea, China and the Philippines.

Japanese governments have in the past apologized and offered compensation for the forcible prostitution of women in Korea, but both the apologies and amount of funds are viewed as inadequate by many Koreans.

“[These] are historic events that aren’t taught in school — at least not with the same degree of importance as that of the Holocaust,” Moon said.

According to a Wikipedia online entry, Korean campaigns against the Japanese flag gained intensity in 2011 when a Korean athlete accused of making an offensive gesture said it was because he was annoyed at having seen a rising sun flag in the stadium.

One year later, “war crime flag” was coined to describe the banner in South Korea.

Japanese commentators have rejected the campaign, saying the United States, who fought Japan, has not protested formally against the Rising Sun Flag.

After the war, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force continued to use the rising sun flag as its ensign.

READ ALSO: Long-time trustee takes on School Board Chair

School board spokesperson Ken Hoff said the flag was meant to serve as a “talking point” for a history classroom and was “not meant or intended to give offence.”

Hoff said the issue would be followed up further with the students on Monday.

Moon said he didn’t expect the response the petition generated, and that he hoped the issue could be worked out.

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