Trans-Pacific View | Security | East Asia

US Forces Korea Bans Public Displays of Confederate Battle Flag

With racism in the United States in the global spotlight, the commanding general of U.S. Forces Korea ordered the Confederate battle flag barred from all installations.

Ankit Panda
US Forces Korea Bans Public Displays of Confederate Battle Flag
Credit: Twitter via @EighthArmyKorea

On Monday, U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), the United States’ sub-unified command for all military forces stationed in South Korea, issued an order prohibiting any and all displays of the Confederate battle flag. The decision comes amid widespread protests against racism and police brutality in the United States that have won global attention.

USFK commander Gen. Robert B. Abrams, in a memorandum, said that the “Confederate Battle Flag does not represent the values of U.S. Forces assigned to serve in the Republic of Korea.” “While I acknowledge some might view it as a symbol of regional pride, many others in our force see it as a painful reminder of hate, bigotry, treason, and devaluation of humanity,” Abrams added.

According to Abram’s order, the Confederate flag will be removed from all U.S. Forces Korea installations and the order also applies to family members of U.S. personnel and Korean national civilians working for USFK. In addition to USFK, Abrams also commands United Nations Command and the U.S.-South Korea Combined Forces Command.

Ongoing anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests in the United States under the aegis of the Black Lives Matter movement have drawn attention in South Korea. Conservative and progressive South Korean politicians alike have expressed approval of the U.S. protests and several major South Korean newspapers have run editorials on the issue, commenting on racism in the United States.

Recently, the U.S. Embassy in Seoul also put up a large Black Lives Matter banner to support ongoing peaceful protests in the United States. “The U.S. Embassy stands in solidarity with fellow Americans grieving and peacefully protesting to demand positive change,” the U.S. embassy tweeted. “Our #BlackLivesMatter banner shows our support for the fight against racial injustice and police brutality as we strive to be a more inclusive & just society.”

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The USFK decision followed similar steps by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps. Adm. Mike Gilday, the U.S. chief of naval operations, announced that he had “directed his staff to begin crafting an order that would prohibit the Confederate battle flag from all public spaces and work areas aboard Navy installations, ships, aircraft and submarines,” naval spokesman Commander Nate Christensen said in a statement.

Earlier in the month, the U.S. Marine Corps announced that its commandant had ordered all “Marine Corps commanders to identify, and remove the display of the Confederate battle flag.”

Protests across several major cities in the United States began in late May after George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer on May 25 in the U.S. state of Minnesota. The protests have received widespread international coverage.