Sunday, March 7, 2010
When I first came to Korea...I would stop in the various stores and gizmo shops looking for various amenities for my home. (Initially it was a coffee grinder)
While I would peruse the aisles...the TVs would have commercials for various Korean products. Sometimes it would be a guy selling a kimchi fridge (at university we called it a "beer fridge") But other times it would be a 12 year old in a blue tutu selling A/C units.
Little did I know that little little girl wasn't 12...she was the darling of Korea...Kim Yu Na (rhymes with gun-a and bun-a NOT tuna)
You see around here she's more on more billboards than Tiger Woods. Coincidentally, both are sponsored by Nike...from A/C (or as they called them here "aircon") to cars for Hyundai and banking products for a Kookmin Bank.
But why wouldn't they celebrate a record setting world champion? Well...I guess my question is...why doesn't Nike pick up Jang Mi Ran?
I mean she is a gold medalist....
She is the world record holder...
She is South Korean...
Wouldn't you buy a car being pushed by her?
Well maybe Kim Yu Na's looks may compound her fame...just a bit.
Almost all of my students watched her skate...all except a 6th grader with the English name of Jennifer. You see, Jennifer didn't complete her homework before Yu Na began her first performance. As such, her mother didn't let her watch it. Let that be a lesson for you, never get between a Korean mother and her child's education...
The obsession with her is so great, the only that could make them more obsessed with is if Japan were somehow involved...low and behold the silver medalist behind Yu Na was Mao Asada...Japan's number one skater. If there's one thing I've learned while living here...it's don't get between a Korean mother and her child's education. If its 2 things...its that Korea will never turn down a chance to one up Japan...ever!
While Korea didn't do well in any of the skiing events....they did have a phenomenal short track team. They dominate the world in this sport!
I have to wonder about the short track. I mean I understand long distance speed skating. It's like running a race in track...all the runners have their lane (generally) and they go as fast as they can. But the short track races remind me of the Figure 8 race at a demolition derby. They cross lanes so much that collisions are not only inevitable...they are the idea.
The same goes for short track...why have so much weaving in and out of lanes if you didn't want them to run into one another. Only, this is an Olympic Sport with 45 cm (18 inches for those Neanderthals still on the Imperial System) razor blades attached to their feet. Collisions are frowned on as a gashed leg just doesn't have the same appeal as a car wreck.
The reality is disqualifications are an integral aspect of the sport. And no one has reaped the rewards of South Korea's mistakes more than Seattlite Apolo Ohno.
Over the course of the past 3 Olympics, he has succeeded in being a thorn in Korea's side. When the 1500 meter (that's right...the Olympics uses METERS) short track race went into the final lap and the rankings were Korea, Korea, Korea, and Ohno. But the 2nd and 3rd place Koreans couldn't play nice with one another ...they collided leaving lonely Apolo an unearned silver medal.
This is just one of many examples in which a slip, crash, or disqualification helped little Ohno.
The South Korean became obsessed with him in a way that could only be enhanced by this American's relationship with Japan.
Oh wait...his father is Japanese...
Yeah....they REALLY hate him over here. He is the MOST hated athlete in South Korea
So much so that when the South Korean received the gold (and Ohno the silver) in the above mentioned 1500 meter short track race....the South Korean later expressed to the newspaper that "Ohno didn't deserve to stand on the same medal platform as me. I was so enraged that it was hard for me to contain myself during the victory ceremony"
I would like to point out that he is the most decorated winter athlete in American history...so sharing the stage with him...might be an honor.
Not here in Korea and certainly not for any Korean in the Olympics...
If you want, I can pick you up a roll of Ohno printed toilet paper.