Earlier today, Kotaku reported on a big controversy going on in Korea at the minute, with Atlus' Persona 5 right at the center. This news has already started the inevitable spread to many other media outlets, however, none of these articles have provided the crucial details we're about to.
The "controversy" revolves around a Korean article, which then later made its way to the Japanese side of the internet.
The piece talks about the character Ryuji Sakamoto having a Japanese Imperial flag displayed on their shoes.
Due to the flag's use during World War 2, some Koreans still associate the rising sun motif with its wartime meaning and it can be seen as offensive.
Persona 5 was criticised because of this potentially offensive element. The symbol has a long history though, with only a brief period representing the war. It is currently still used by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and a slightly modified version by the Ground Self-Defense Force. It's also featured on all sorts of Japanese advertising and logos.
Due to its wide usage, most in Japan feel that the design should not have to face restrictions.
In fact, it was even featured within E. Honda's stage in Street Fighter 2.
Despite what you may have read, the original story was largely ignored by the Korean population, with it currently generating only 2 upvotes, 25 downvotes, and less than 10 comments.
So no, there is no real controversy. This was just a small story that spiraled a little out of control and out of context.
Ryan also posted on the KotakuInAction subreddit, fearing a Western site picking up the story and misinterpreting things. This is exactly what ended up happening, which has made the original Reddit post much more interesting to read.
Do you know the Japanese matome blog? They pick up stuff from social media and message boards like 2ch and create sensational headlines. They are essentially Japan's version of gossip clickbait sites that exists to fuel flames and controversies. A whole ton of them have been running this story recently, but I'm not sure to what extent they're just taking what accounts to Twitter Nobodies and running with a story for clicks, so I wanted to warn readers of KIA in case this pops up elsewhere.
Essentially, what they're claiming is that Koreans are angry that Persona 5 apparently mocks the war time "comfort women/forced prostitution" problem between our country and theirs. They claim that they're trying to sign a petition for it to not go on sale in Korea, but unless I see some sort of more reliable sign that this is an actual controversy that's gaining a lot of steam in Korea, I don't think it's going to affect anything other than just some dramatic people screaming in their little corner of the Internet. If you can read Korean, this is apparently the site that originated whatever drama there is, so if anyone wants to clarify. (As you can see, it would appear at this time that 24 people are downvoting the article and only 2 are upvoting it.)
If, and that's a big if, this site is reporting their complaints accurately then what is boils down to is that Persona 5 has a rising sun symbol used somewhere in the game. (I think I know where this is, it's probably Ryuji's shoes.) You may have seen the same symbol in all sorts of place, like this famous use of it here in E. Honda's stage.
These types of sun designs showed up well before the war and its flag was put in place, but sometimes Koreans maintain that because it was used as the imperial flag during World War II, then any use of it is racist, imperialist imagery. Many Japanese maintain that it's just another design of the Hinomaru that shows up for many different reasons and many different places that don't have to do with war. They maintain that we're being asshats. Then Japanese retaliate with aggression to the claim. It never ends.
The second bit is a line that supposedly shows up in the game. Though I am 25 hours or so in and I have yet to see anything like it. The line is, "We demand an apology and compensation." (謝罪と賠償を要求する) Have you heard of the cartoon AA (Ascii Art) cats like Mona on 2ch? They're like Pepes, used for all sorts of purposes. One of them is called Nida and is modeled after a stereotype of Koreans and one of the things that Nida is always saying is, "We demand an apology and compensation."
Now this is pretty much standard Japanese speak for political negotiations involving scandals. You hear it when talking about negotiations in various councils and congresses in cities and prefectures and such. You hear it when talking about lawsuits for medical malpractice and such. And of course you hear it from Korean people when talking about the "comfort women/forced prostitution," which is the largest and long running controversy for such a thing and why it was attached to Nida.
These days, Nida and his stock phrases have become so ubiquitous it's hard to tell who's trolling and who is being a serious racist. It's like the opposite of Pepe, it started out racist and now I see people invoke it whenever anyone is having an argument that gets too serious and shout, "I demand an apology and reparations." However, if you were to do a cursory Google search, of course the 2ch empire of sites will come up and the whole Korea/Japan controversy would be the first to show up, especially since there's been a lot of news and talk on the issue recently. Because of this, now it would seem that some Koreans believe any use of this phrase is an attempt by far right wing racists to mock them.
So here's the thing: Even if that site has some validity to its claims, I doubt it's much more than some back and forth between hardcore net users in Korea and Japan. I really do. This kind of thing really tends to be quarantined to those nasty parts of the net and not taken part in by the majority of the population, at least in Japan. Obviously, I can't speak for Korea or Koreans.
Of course in my time with Persona 5, I haven't come across any language or storytelling that would make me think it's extreme far right Japanese political viewpoints or flagrant racism, but I wanted to get this out here just in case the bullshit spreads to places like NeoGAF, Vice or Kotaku so you guys have the context for it.