Chan Sung Jung is a cult favorite among MMA fans for his courageous and aggressive fighting style. When it comes to issues he cares about, the featherweight contender is just as committed outside the cage as he is inside it.
Last earlier this year, the “Korean Zombie” sent an open letter to Georges St. Pierre, in an attempt to educate and chastise the welterweight champ for wearing a gi to the ring before his fight against Nick Diaz that had the rising sun symbol – a symbol used on the World War II Japanese war-time flag. Jung pointed out that to many people in Asian countries, the rising sun symbol brought up memories of atrocities committed by Japan during the second world war and that using the symbol was akin to someone using a Nazi swastika.
Jung’s letter made a difference. St. Pierre issued an apology to those offended and the maker of the gi also apologized and decided not to take the gi to market.
Viewers of this season’s Ultimate Fighter may have noticed bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey wearing a T-shirt sold by the UFC that also features the rising sun symbol, on a Pride Fighting Championships t-shirt. In response, Jung has written and sent out another letter, this time to one of his biggest fans – UFC president Dana White – asking that the UFC be more sensitive to what the symbol means to Koreans and others.
Bleacher Report obtained a copy of Jung’s letter. Here’s an excerpt from it.
“We have decided to take the time to speak up for what we know is right, because we do believe this is something that UFC management should absolutely be aware of. Let's get straight to the point.
It's about 'Rising Sun Flag' outfits. And our point is that this design is the symbol of war crimes, and that every single item designed after this symbol of war crimes should be kicked out of the UFC, firstly for justice, and then for the company.
...Let bygones be bygones? Get over it? Unjustified invasion, torture, massacre, military and sexual slavery, medical experiments on living prisoners of war and many other war crimes scarred too many people. It can never be forgotten. This is a tragic history for all of us. Furthermore, the Japanese government never gave a sincere apology, and is even trying to justify and distort their dirty, nasty history. Still to this day, so many victims are dying in pain, heartbroken, without being properly compensated.
...I was happy because I thought we have succeeded in educating a chunk of the world on a very important issue, and that we no longer have to see that symbol of war crimes, at least around the Octagon. But a few days later, another UFC champion and the symbol of [women's mixed martial arts], Ronda Rousey was seen in that 'Rising Sun Flag' outfit. Two UFC champions wearing the symbol of war crimes! Don't you think this will be an awful example for our company, which actually does a lot of charity stuff for troops as well?
This sport, mixed martial arts, is growing very fast. And on the top of everything is the UFC. It's been crossing borders with great ease. The event was a great success in Europe, Australia and Brazil, and now it's time for Asia. As a fighter, I'm really excited and happy to see the sport growing, but I don't even want to imagine UFC fighters in those outfits, especially in Asia. A lot of furious, heartbroken people will boycott the UFC, leading to a loss of a lot of (potential) fans, which will end up leaving a very bad impression on the Asian market. I mean, can you imagine our fighters in Nazi outfits in Europe? For us Asians, it’s nothing different.”
The UFC indeed is attempting to grow in Asian countries and Jung brings up an interesting point. Does enough of Asia agree with Jung about the symbolism of the rising sun emblem that it could hurt the UFC’s reputation in countries like South Korea?
We don’t ourselves know the answer but we’re glad anytime a thoughtful discussion about history and society arise in sports. So far, the UFC has not issued a formal response to Jung’s letter.
If you’ve got an interesting take on the issue, let us know in the comments section.