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[Sports View]Don’t politicize sports over silly national pride

Feb 07,2007
The South Korean short track speed skaters at the Asian Winter Games in Changchun, China acted like amateurs. While receiving a silver medal for the women’s 3,000-meter relay competition, they each raised a part of a sign that spelled out “Mount Paekdu is ours.”
Some might argue that the impulsive act by hot-blooded athletes was justified, because, in a controversial call, a judge disqualified Ahn Hyun-soo in the men’s 500-meter finals for pushing a Chinese athlete, and Beijing used the Winter Games to actively promote the Changbai Shan, known here as Mount Paekdu, as a tourist spot in China.
Afterward, the Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned a South Korean diplomat to China to lodge an official complaint while Chinese sports authorities also let it be known to their South Korean counterparts that the act did not sit well with them.
The home-field advantage has always been a subject of scrutiny. Every host nation benefits. Have you ever seen the home crowd or athletes raise a peep when they receive that benefit? Hardly anyone complains, so calling the refereeing one-sided is naive and shouldn’t be done. South Korean athletes have benefited many times in the past, the most obvious being at the 2002 World Cup. When you play an away game, it’s what you expect.
It may be that China is laying the grounds for a possible future crisis on the Korean Peninsula, when the North’s regime suddenly collapses. China may be nervous that ethnic Chinese living in the area might become a source of unrest. Thus, cementing its territorial rights and integrating ethnic Koreans further with the rest of China is the logical choice. It’s an unmovable fact that Beijing and Pyongyang signed an agreement in the 1960s that gave China about half of Mount Paekdu as both nations drew their border lines. The spot has become a major tourist attraction for both sides since then.
Half of Mount Paekdu belongs to North Korea. Nothing more. Nothing less. And South Korea has no claim whatsoever on the mountain. Although historians might argue that past agreements regarding territorial rights on the area are not valid for various reasons, reality dictates that the current borders won’t change. That should be taught to the young generation. Otherwise, we will have more incidents that waste our time.
The issue is linked with the assertion by China that the ancient Goguryeo Kingdom (B.C. 37-A.D. 668), which ruled most of northeastern China as well as the northern half of the Korean Peninsula, was a Chinese provincial government. This is an issue for the historians, although I do not share China’s view.
Starting now, we should stop using international sporting events to politicize things. Especially when it’s only about national pride from hotheaded young athletes who don’t know better. In today’s world, you have to pick your fights where you have a reasonable chance. Besides, in any sporting competition, I have always said that sweat is the only thing that should matter. Everything else needs to go. If you forget that you are not an athlete, regardless of how great you are, I don’t care. You are just another politician and God knows we have enough of them already.


by Brian Lee Staff Writerafricanu@joongang.co.kr


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