SEOUL, July 29 (Yonhap) -- South Korea has no plan to address the controversy on a banner put up by local football fans during their country's recent match against Japan, an official said Monday.
South Korea lost to Japan 2-1 in the final East Asian Cup match in Seoul on Sunday, as Japan captured the regional tournament for the first time.
In the early part of the game, the so-called Red Devils, a group of South Korean football supporters, hung a banner that read, "There is no future for people who have forgotten their past." The message was apparently aimed at Japan's reluctance to acknowledge its militaristic and colonial past. It was removed after the first half.
The banner was unfolded on the upper deck facade at Jamsil Olympic Stadium soon after some Japanese fans waved the Rising Sun Flag, a symbol of Japan's militarism and imperialism. South Koreans find the flag offensive and have bristled at its public display. The flag disappeared after a few minutes.
A day after the match, an official with the Korea Football Association (KFA) said the national football governing body doesn't plan to discuss the banner.
"Japanese officials expressed some concerns about it during the game," the official said. "But we didn't receive any official complaint afterward."
Later on Monday, the Japan Football Association said it has lodged a protest with the East Asian Football Federation (EAFF) and demanded an investigation into the banner. The EAFF was the organizer of the East Asian Cup.
Separately, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, said at a news conference that South Korean fans' display of the banner was "extremely regrettable," adding that the Japanese government will act accordingly based on FIFA rules when further facts are revealed.
FIFA prohibits athletes, coaches and fans from making political statements.
Football matches between the regional rivals have often been played under tension. After South Korea defeated Japan 2-0 to claim the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, South Korean player Park Jong-woo celebrated by hoisting a sign that read, "Dokdo is our territory."
It referred to South Korea's easternmost islets to which Japan has also laid claims. Dokdo has long been a source of diplomatic tensions between the two countries. For making what was deemed a political statement, Park was suspended by FIFA for two matches and was fined 3,500 Swiss francs (US$3,770), while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) withheld his bronze medal until February this year.
In August 2012, Japanese fans waved the Rising Sun Flags during the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup match between the two countries in Tokyo.
The flag was once seen in a match between professional clubs from the two countries. In April this year, fans of Urawa Red Diamonds in the J. League waved the military flag in an AFC Champions League match against the South Korean club Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors in Saitama. Jeonbuk officials later lodged a complaint against their Urawa counterparts.
After Sunday's East Asian Cup match, Kyodo News reported that South Koreans "could be in trouble with FIFA" for their banner, but the story didn't mention the Rising Sun Flag.
According to the KFA official, the South Korean football body "is in discussion" with the EAFF regarding the display of the military flag.
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