South Korean flags and signs hang at the building hosting Olympic Games participants, at the Athletes’ Village, where one person tested positive for COVID-19, ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, July 17, 2021. REUTERS / Kim Kyung- Hoon

TOKYO — The South Korean team has removed banners referring to a past conflict with Japan from the balconies of its Olympic village in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee said on Saturday.

The banners had been hung from the team’s balconies in the Olympic Village, home to the 10,500 athletes from more than 200 countries who will compete in the Games from next week.

“I have been informed that the banners have been withdrawn by the South Korean Olympic Committee,” IOC President Thomas Bach told a press conference.

“This obviously happened at the request of the IOC as the guidelines also say very clearly that the Olympic Village is one of the protected areas where athletes can live together in peace without having to deal with divisive messages,” did he declare.

South Korean athletes and staff pose for a photo during a ceremony to send the South Korean delegation to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Seoul on July 8, 2021.

South Korean athletes and staff pose for a photo during a ceremony to send the South Korean delegation to the Tokyo Olympics in Seoul on July 8, 2021. (Photo by JUNG Yeon-je / POOL / AFP)

This is not the first time the two countries have disagreed over flags and symbols during the Olympics.

Despite the normalization of relations in 1965, relations between the two countries were often strained, largely due to Japan’s occupation of the Korean Peninsula in the past.

At the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the tables were turned, with Japan complaining about fans waving a Korean Peninsula flag depicting disputed islands in the sea between the two nations known as of Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese.

South Korea also asked the IOC in 2019 to ban Japan from using the “Rising Sun” flag at the Games, a symbol of Japan’s imperialist past.


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