South Korea has formally asked the International Olympic Committee to ban Japan's imperial flag from being displayed at games venues during next year's Tokyo Olympics, its sports ministry said Wednesday.

In a move made after 2020 Games organizers pushed back on the issue, saying the flag is not a political statement, the South Korean sports ministry expressed concern over possible displays of the "rising sun" flag, saying the flag is comparable to the Nazi swastika.

The letter was sent under the name of minister Park Yang Woo and addressed to IOC President Thomas Bach.

(Protesters tear a Japanese rising sun flag in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, on July 20, 2019.)

According to the Associated Press, the IOC confirmed the receipt of the letter and said in a statement "sports stadiums should be free of any political demonstration. When concerns arise at games time we look at them on a case by case basis."

The 16-rayed rising sun flag, also known as the war crime flag among some South Koreans, is often associated with World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army, and Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and associated controversies.

A very similar version of the flag, with the sun slightly offset to the left, is still used by the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.

The flag spat comes at a time when Japan-South Korea relations have reached their lowest ebb in years, with the nations in conflict over compensation rulings for wartime labor made by South Korean courts and moves by Japan to impose trade restrictions on grounds of national security.

The IOC's Olympic Charter states, "No kind of demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas."

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