The Persona 5 Controversy In South Korea

[Image: Atlus via Red Bull]
Kotaku EastEast is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Persona 5 won’t be out in South Korea until next year, but the game has already caused some controversy there online.

The game will be subtitled in Korean, which should make many players there happy. What isn’t making some happy is imagery on P5 character Ryuji Sakamoto’s shoes. He doesn’t always wear the same sneakers in the game, but while at school, he wears these:


That certainly appears to be Rising Sun Flag motif. In South Korea, there have been articles and posts online pointing this out. Obviously, due to historical associations Korean people have with that flag, there will certainly be greater sensitivity to that sort of imagery.

While national paper Kyeonggi Daily recently published an article about this, even reporting that there’s apparently a protest petition, note that Persona is very popular with Korean gamers and not everyone is bound to react the same.

(Apparently, there is also in-game dialogue that mentions “demanding an apology and reparations”, which Kyeonggi Daily mentions as an allusion of the apology and reparations given to “comfort women.” I’m currently playing Persona 5 and don’t recall that bit of dialogue, but if you have a screenshot, do put it in the comments!)

Photo: Brian Ashcraft | Kotaku

Be aware that the Japanese Navy continues to fly the Rising Sun flag, and the Japanese and South Korean governments both officially reached agreement on the “comfort women” dispute. The imagery and all sun imagery have existed long before any actions of the Japanese military in the 19th and 20th centuries.

But why would this be in Persona 5? There are a couple things to unpack here, namely that Ryuji is a “yankii” or, basically, a delinquent. Yankii is a Japanese subculture, and the stereotype is that members dye their hair bright colors, wear flashy clothes, speak in rough Japanese and don’t finish school. Again, this is the stereotype in Japan.


Yankii who join bosozoku, those noisy motorcycle tribes, often are seen flying the Rising Sun Flag or brandishing it on their bikes or helmets.

[Image via Youkorin138 | YouTube]

I’d be more inclined to say that the Rising Sun design on Ryuji’s sneakers is to draw a direct line to that subculture, and not, per se, to 20th century aggression (even if there’s an argument that the bosozoku’s embrace of said imagery is a direct link to that). So, when people in Japan see a kid with dyed hair, talking rough and sporting Rising Sun imagery, they’d immediately think “yankii.”

But South Korea isn’t Japan, and just as some imagery in Baymax upset people in the country, these sneakers appear to be doing the same. Don’t be surprised if the shoes are slightly changed for the South Korean release.


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter

About the author

Brian Ashcraft

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored five books, including most recently, Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World's Most Desirable Spirit.