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US forces in South Korea ban Confederate flag

Confederate Flag in Biloxi, Miss. (edward stojakovic/Flickr)
June 15, 2020

U.S. Forces Korea has banned the display of the Confederate flag in workspaces and common areas on U.S. military bases in South Korea.

U.S. Army Gen. Robert B. Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, shared new guidelines on the Confederate flag ban on Monday. The memo states that its decision is “effective immediately.”

Abrams’ ban identifies displays of the flag on public spaces on base as well as external porches of on-base housing. The ban also includes items such as on clothing and personal vehicle bumper stickers. The order extends to DoD retirees, family members, and any others with access to U.S. bases in South Korea.

The order does not apply to depictions of the flag in artistic, educational, or historical displays.

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“The Confederate Battle Flag does not represent the values of the U.S. Forces assigned to serve in the Republic of Korea,” Abrams states as justification for the ban. “While I acknowledge some might view is 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. Regardless of perspective, one thing is clear: it has the power to inflame feelings of racial division. We cannot have that division among us.”

Abrams’ justifications for banning the Confederate flag reads similar to those the U.S. Marine Corps has already used to effect a service-wide ban of the flag and other items bearing the symbol.

“All of our installations have regulations prohibiting the display of symbols related to hate speech. These regulations are not intended to weigh the value or specific meaning of any particular symbol,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David H. Berger said in an April announcement. “Rather they help cultivate an environment which promotes unity and security by limiting offensive or divisive displays.”

The U.S. Navy has also signaled interest in effecting a service-wide ban on the Confederate flag.

“The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, has 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,” Cmdr. Nate Christensen said.

The U.S. Army officials have also considered calls to rename 10 U.S. bases named for Confederate military leaders. Those controversial bases include Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Fort Benning, Georgia, among others.

President Donald Trump has thus far opposed calls to rename those 10 Confederate named U.S. bases.

Moves to rename Confederate military installations and remove displays of the controversial flag also come amid widespread racial tension and civil unrest brought on by the death of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis police custody. Floyd’s death has sparked allegations of racially motivated policing and discussion of America’s history on racial issues.