(ATTN: UPDATES with S. Korean lawmakers' demand for apology in paras 7-8)
SEOUL, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea took a sideswipe Thursday at Japanese cheerers' flying of their war-time national flag during a recent regional football match between the countries in Seoul, stressing they should abstain from such an act in the future.
During the East Asian Cup football game at Jamsil Olympic Stadium on Sunday, South Korean supporters spread a banner that read, "There is no future for people who have forgotten their past," alluding to Japan's denial of past war-time atrocities.
Also during the game, Japanese cheerers waved the rising-sun flag, which many South Koreans find offensive as it symbolizes Japan's militarism and imperialism.
"Japan itself may be well aware of what the rising-sun flag means to our citizens and those who suffered under Japan's imperialistic past," Seoul's Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said in a semi-weekly briefing.
The spokesman did not elaborate, but it marked the first official comment by the ministry regarding the controversial flag waved by Japanese supporters.
Shortly after the game, Tokyo strongly criticized the South Korean banner, saying it is "extremely regrettable." Japan's Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura followed suit, issuing provocative remarks that the event called into question "the level" of culture of South Koreans.
On Thursday, a group of South Korean lawmakers promoting accurate history education demanded an apology from the Japanese government for Shimomura's remarks.
"It's clearly an insult to our people for Japan to comment on Korean people's cultural level while overlooking the rising-sun flag," the group, made up of 98 legislators, said in a statement. "The Japanese government must issue an official apology for these remarks."
Seoul earlier said recent remarks by ranking Japanese officials are "rude," but did not mention the rising-sun flag.
The foreign ministry spokesman also called on Japanese government officials and politicians to take "extra care" in issuing official remarks.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently made remarks whitewashing the country's colonial domination of its neighbors, further souring relations with South Korea.
The two historical enemies have often sparred over their differing views on Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over Korea as well as the ownership of the South Korean-controlled islets, called Dokdo, which are also claimed by Japan.
Sports competitions between the two Asian rivals have often escalated into political battles between spectators from each country.
In the Sunday match, Japan beat South Korea 2-1 to win the regional tournament that also involved China and Australia.
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