SEOUL – The Lotte Hotel, one of the largest luxury hotels in Seoul, has decided against hosting a regularly held reception organized by the Japanese Embassy to commemorate the establishment of the Self-Defense Forces out of fear of demonstrations, a hotel source said.
Meanwhile, the War Memorial of Korea has canceled an exhibition of the popular Japanese manga “One Piece,” which had been scheduled to start Saturday, citing a drawing similar to the Rising Sun flag — considered a symbol of Japan’s aggression in South Korea — appearing in the original series.
The SDF event had been scheduled to be held Friday evening. After being notified of the decision by the Lotte Hotel, the embassy decided to hold the event at the ambassador’s residence.
“It’s regrettable that the Lotte, which has been a familiar venue for us, has decided to take such action,” a Japanese official said.
With history differences that have long been simmering and the Abe administration’s recent move to make Japan’s defense policy more muscular, criticism against Japan has been growing among the South Korean government and media.
The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper carried a report blasting the Lotte Hotel’s reception plan in its Thursday edition. The hotel said it was been bombarded with calls of protests and threats. It had hosted the event in recent years.
The SDF commemorates its founding on July 1. This year marked its 60th anniversary. Japanese diplomatic missions around the world hold similar events around this date.
With Japan-South Korean relations at a low point, the embassy in Seoul had scaled down the event for this year, but it still invited several hundred people, including diplomats from South Korea and other countries stationed in the country.
The embassy frequently uses the Lotte Hotel, located in Myeongdong, a central shopping district popular with tourists. The hotel is also a familiar name with Japanese travelers.
The War Memorial, run by the South Korean government, decided to cancel a contract on leasing out an exhibition room with the event company planning to stage the “One Piece” show of character figures from the adventure series. The show itself did not have a plan for displaying anything resembling the flag, according to organizers.
The museum said that “it could invite unnecessary disturbances” given the many complaints it received against the planned exhibit.
South Korean media reports said the event company objected to the cancellation.
Versions of the Rising Sun flag were used by the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy. A newer version is now used by the Ground Self-Defense Force. South Koreans are showing increasing aversion to the flag, with lawmakers having presented legislation in the national legislature to penalize its use in public places.
The memorial was set up to honor those who died in the Korean War and to educate people about the importance of defending the country. On its website, the memorial said confusion associated with the event is inappropriate for the hall of national defense.