South Korea wants the International Olympic Committee to “actively mediate” a dispute over islands that are depicted as part of Japanese territory in a map on the Tokyo Summer Games’ website.
The Korean Sports and Olympics Committee late Tuesday sent a letter urging the IOC to step in and remove the reference to the islands known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.
A KSOC representative told Reuters that “political neutrality must be guaranteed at the games.”
The islands in the Sea of Japan are controlled by South Korea, but Japan contests its Asian neighbor’s claims.
The dispute pivots around a speck on the Olympic torch-relay map that depicts the islands, known neutrally as the Liancourt Rocks, in the same color as the rest of Japan. It isn’t visible to the naked eye, but South Korean protesters pointed to zoomed-in versions that show the dot.
Seoul called in a senior Japanese diplomat on Tuesday to formally protest the map, and three students were arrested for burning the “Rising Sun” Japanese flag in protest in the South Korean capital.
So far, Japan isn’t budging.
“Takeshima is a territory inherent to Japan in view of historical facts and international laws. We cannot accept South Korea’s protest at all,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Wednesday.
The dispute is another headache for Tokyo organizers ahead of the Summer Games, which were postponed for a year and now are scheduled for July 23-Aug. 8.
There are cries to cancel the Games altogether as Japan continues to battle surges in the coronavirus. Its COVID-19 vaccine rollout got off to a sluggish start but is gaining steam with the debut of mass-vaccination sites.
South Koreans say they are particularly galled by the Dokdo issue because they removed the islands from a national map for the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang after Japan complained.
Former South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has raised the prospect of boycotting the Games over the dispute.