One Piece Deemed Offensive In South Korea, Exhibit Cancelled

One Piece Deemed Offensive In South Korea, Exhibit Cancelled

Three days before a One Piece exhibit was to open in Seoul, South Korea, the event was suddenly cancelled.

The event was to be held at the War Memorial of Korea Peace Plaza and was to feature life-sized statues of One Piece characters, sketches by series creator Eiichiro Oda, and over three hundred rare One Piece figures. This was to be South Korea’s first One Piece exhibition and was slated to run until September. Everything was nearly set up, and loads of tickets had already been sold.

And then, someone noticed Rising Sun imagery, or Rising Sun-esque imagery in One Piece.

One Piece Deemed Offensive in South Korea, Exhibit Cancelled
One Piece Deemed Offensive in South Korea, Exhibit Cancelled
One Piece Deemed Offensive in South Korea, Exhibit Cancelled
One Piece Deemed Offensive in South Korea, Exhibit Cancelled

The character “wa” (和) in the above panel can refer to Japan or peace.

In Japan, the Rising Sun design was used well before World War II, and it even has a religious meaning, appearing in depictions of the Shinto sun goddess Amaterasu (below). The flag is still flown by the Japanese military. Today in Japan, defenders of the design often compare the Rising Sun to Germany’s Iron Cross, which is still used by the German military. (Make of that what you will!)

One Piece Deemed Offensive in South Korea, Exhibit Cancelled

In South Korea, however, the design is viewed as a symbol of Japanese aggression due to terrible events that happened during the first part of the 20th century, when Japan invaded the country. It is an offensive motif to people in South Korea. Thus, according to YTN, the War Memorial arbitrarily decided to cancel the event.

Since the event was being held at South Korea’s War Memorial, it’s easy to see how the imagery used in One Piece could create an awkward situation and even lead to protests. It’s a shame that the event organisers didn’t plan to hold the event at a more neutral location or get more of a heads up. It also sucks for those Korean One Piece fans who were excited to attend.

Recently, the One Piece exhibit was held in Taiwan, which Japan had also colonialized until the end of World War II. It doesn’t seem as though any imagery used in One Piece caused controversy during the exhibit, which was apparently held without incident and to great acclaim.

[단독] ‘욱일기 논란’ 만화 원피스 전시전 취소 [YTN]


  • Maybe Japan should stop selling Samsung gear, or ban Samsung advertising, if it associates itself in anyway with Korean government. I will boycott Korean goods now; as I dont like nations being petty while the Koreans hide their own war crimes through history; as though butter wouldnt melt in their mouth.
    Korea should spend more time looking at how to stop their kids drowning in ships, rather than having teams of researchers going to extremes inspecting any comic media from Japan, and over a tiny contextual image of a flag with no crime attached.
    Its regressive of Korea, and counter-productive to bi-lateral progress.
    Its also very silly; as Koreans will beg Japan for shelter and help if North Korea attack South Korea.
    Maybe Japan will offer shelter, and cancel it when someone in Japan spots a Korean flag on a suitcase.

  • Really wasn’t aware that having a flag for your military was an offensive act, or that you should have to change it anytime after you wage war under it. How come the US and the rest of Europe isn’t being held to this standard? Or China? This really reeks of some agitants with a grudge looking for any excuse possible to score some political points, or just outraged because their enemy was being themselves.

    Kind of like watching your friends or coworkers get pissed off at someone, then ANYTHING that person does – even good things – become a source of annoyance. Human irrationality at its finest.

    • It’s because of the level of atrocities that were committed. For the Chinese and Korean people it’s like a swastika, basically.

      That said, because it was used well, well before WWII I agree it shouldn’t be this big an issue. It’s only because tensions are running higher as nationalism is steadily increasing in Japan and the territorial disputes, etc.

    • That flag is like the swastika in Korea and Japan. Do you think Jews won’t be offended if the swastika was being used in a cartoon?

    • The Japanese Imperial flag is the same as the nazi flag in the eyes of Japan’s former colonies because terrible atrocities were done under it. Would u be happy is Germans started waving nazi flags, denied any wrongdoings and played the victim of WW2?

    • Well, as to your first paragraph: The US was the victor over Japan in WWII. If Japan was the victor then I’m pretty sure the US flag would’ve been deemed offensive…

      As to the rest of Europe, you don’t see any of the Axis countries’ war flags and as for Germany, the Iron Cross will never be as prevalent as the swastika.

      In China’s case, they were fighting with the Allies for the duration of WWII, then nobody really won the Korean war and they’ve suppressed everybody else under their influence.

      As Churchill said: “History is written by the victors.”

  • S. Koreans really need to let go of this horrible grudge. Yes, unspeakable deeds were done by the Japanese during the first half of the XX century. But they were done by another generation, a long-gone mentality that was as severely crushed and punished as worse as it was possible. Not even Jewish people carry such an antagonism for Germany nowadays.

    Worse thing is that all this whinging and anti-nipponism only has managed to make the younger generations of Japanese anti-Korean in return. They are all trapped in a cycle of hatred now.

    • Perhaps, but it’s not about that. War Memorials hold special meanings whichever country they’re in, and so it’s natural for them to be hyper-sensitive to anything that might be remotely controversial. And to be blunt the “horrible grudge” held by South Koreans is understandable given the lack of a serious apology by the Japanese. You say the Jews don’t hold much antagonism towards the Germans. But that would be because they’re seen to have made amends (reparations, history teaching, anti Nazi), while Japan has issues with the pride they maintain around the war (Yasukuni Shrine) and how the US treated them so well after the war.

      These things still matter today, and Bashcraft summed it up well at the end. Had the event been at a different place, or if the organisers were more considerate (to be fair the scenes were very minute) things could be different.

    • Jewish people don’t carry antagonism for Germany because the German government took proper steps to address the atrocities that it committed. There are countless Holocaust monuments in Germany and the people know and are sorry what happened. Contrast that to Japan where there is widespread ignorance to Japan’s crimes due to the government beautifiying and whitewashing its history and portraying Japan as a victim of WW2

    • If my grandfather raped ur grandmother and our family burned ur house, stole all ur family heirlooms, made ur grandfather work as a slave for 35 years and then told us the grandchildren that we did nothing wrong, would u rly not be resentful?!

  • i guess if some german cartoon/toy exhibition was to be held at the australian war memorial and it was notised the german cross symbol was present there would be some outrage. the organiser really should have held it at a different venue.

  • You need to remember that the Japanese government has never apologised or even officially recognised these events actually occurred. Hell even a lot of former generals in charge of the various atrocities occupy or occupied senior positions in the government until very recently. It’s seen as a symbol of horror for most of Asia.
    I had a suitcase where I collected flags from countries I visited and stuck them on it. I bought the rising sun flag and when I arrived in Singapore it was ripped off and the suitcase was destroyed. The other flags weren’t touched. Coincidence? Maybe but not likely.
    It may not be the current generation in charge but these things are kept out of school textbooks whereas in Germany it is required they know what terrible things they did in the past. Unless the Japanese formerly apologise and understand people are still angry about what happened it will continue to be an issue for most people in Asia.

  • I’d like to claim from Korean’s standpoint. First of all I am korean and 16 yrs old. I have never been to overseas, so I might have the most korean point of view. Well, I think people’s opinions are so biased on the comment wall. I felt like anime otakus or some of people in here have prejudice that Korean kids educated antipathy of Japan blindly. But, I state Korean’s views. Hmm.. Some time or other, Korea and Japan will inevitably embrace each other as neighbours. In fact, there are many Koreans and Japanese solidify their friendship. Also, there is an existence of anti-Koreans and anti-Japanese. Furthermore, anti-Koreans protest for Korean hatred at Korea Town in Japan. That’s because Koreans denounced distorted histories by Japanese government. But, who heartily wants to be friend with Japan is Koreans more than any other country, so as Japanese. Nevertheless, that is hardly possible without a sincere apology of Japan. I personally forgave what Japanese war criminals did in the past. The fact is Germany is educating all the citizens including children about circumstances of their war crime not to revert to the past. Whereas, Japan is concealling almost the whole crime. I want to ask you back. If.. Your grandmother had been dragged for sex slaves and killed by tortures, are you confident you don’t feel anger at assailants? We must forgive, but, should not forget! Otherwise, the history is unnecessary. History is provement of our lives and it is a way of peace by learning history. The most of non-asians will not understand why Asians trying to ban the rising sun flags in the comics of one piece. The flag used as an emblem of militarism in WW2 which gives Asians a scar in the heart like Hakenkruez. Anyway I agree that the place is not appropriate to show off one piece.

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