Take off the Rising Sun Flag in an Educational Environment

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My name is B.J. Moon and I am a 9th-grade student attending a school in Langley. Recently, it has come to my attention that one of the history teachers in the school in room 210, has put up the Japanese Sun Rise flag in his classroom. Several other students (Linda Park, Ki Lee, Claire Park, Gianne Yeom, Stephanie Lim, Sarah Lim, and Sophia Lee) have also noticed this and have joined me in my complaint. This flag is the symbol of Japan's militaristic imperialism. It is considered extremely offensive in countries of former Japanese imperialism as it reminds Japan's former war crimes. Everyone knows that Adolf Hitler and his administration committed atrocities against humanity. But comfort women, 'maruta', and the Rape of Nanking are historic events that aren’t taught in school — at least not with the same degree of importance as that of the Holocaust.

It is definitely easier to emphasize the heinous acts of Nazi Germany in this society as those came to occupy an important place in public memory, in part with political motivations of the Allies to paint themselves as the heroes of the narrative that is the World War II and because more Canadians were directly affected by Nazis than the Japanese. However, if we were to live with the idea that human rights are important, that we must uphold them, and that we must be true to these higher ideals, then it is absolutely necessary to remember the atrocities that the Japanese committed during the World War II as much as we remember these of Nazi Germany.

Before the eventual fall in 1945, the Japanese empire boasted its enormity to its occupied territories and the victims of the war were innumerable. Horrors of Japanese fascism extended all over the Asia-pacific region and included China, Korea, the Philippines, Indochina, Indonesia, Australia, parts of the United States and Canadian Veterans, and the United Nations Armed Forces. Remnants and records of Japanese war crimes and atrocities still remain to this day. This, however, is widely received in Japan as a source of pride, not shame.

Our ideas will never change and we will never change our points of view until the Japanese apologize to every woman that was sexually harassed and therefore sacrificed. Japan has actually apologized in 2015, but that is the perfect example of the absence of a genuine apology. What Abe was reportedly to say, was, “I’m sorry that happened.”, not taking response or an expression of regret, just like that you may regret anything that happened, but not taking responsibility. That is not a kind of apology, especially from this government.

In addition, we are all Koreans and descendants of a country that was colonized by Japan. It's very rare to feel so despondent. Thinking of the tragedies my grandparents went through, we cannot imagine how someone wouldn’t find this symbol as inhumane and unethical. This is also an issue that matters to everyone who believes in the sacredness of fundamental human rights built upon sacrifices of those fallen in battlefields during World War II.

This is a very serious problem for us and our own countries, therefore we strongly believe that this flag should be removed, or at least not widely visible from our learning environment due to these reasons. We visited his classroom after school, to listen to his opinion. He stated that even though there are controversies about the flag, however with the same idea, he would need to take off all the works on the wall. But logically, if that specific flag is allowed in the school, why isn’t racism and sexism allowed? Are we allowed to wear clothes with a huge Nazi Germany symbol on it?

We all believe that he would not teach the students that Japan did the right thing. He is a great teacher that taught the school for over 13 years and he is one of the teachers that I truly got inspired and respect. However, this is a totally different issue. For the students that are completely irrelevant to the class, they would find the flag offensive. They would misunderstand the point of view of the teacher and may not fully participate in the school society. If possible, the flag should not be on the wall, where it is seen from the hallway. He reserves the right to put the material upon the wall, however, students find it uncomfortable. Also, since there are lots of Asian-decent students in the school, it may be taken as being disrespectful to the students that recognize the flag, just like what it was, to us. We sincerely request that he show the flag in a different way so that all students can comfortably go to school without any historical obstacles.

We appreciate the work you put and to improve and make education more equally accessible and valuable. We hope you understand our concerns and how serious this is to all the students, not only us but to those whose ancestors have suffered from those horrifying acts.

Thank you for taking the time to consider our requests.


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