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Ohno! Apolo is coming to Jeonju!

Nov 05,2003
Say Osama bin Laden. OK, that’s three words for one big, bad guy. Now, say Apolo Anton Ohno. That’s three words for dead man walking.
The U.S. skater is scheduled to come to the city of Jeonju at the end of this month to participate in the Short Track Speed Skating World Cup 2003/2004.
At the men’s 1,500-meter in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Korea’s Kim Dong-sung crossed the finish line first, but was disqualified for crossing Ohno’s path. Ohno took the gold, and raised himself to the status of most hated man in Korea. The whole country was upset that his Hollywood act ― throwing his hands in the air in disbelief at Kim’s supposed violation ― had fooled the judge.
A new chapter in the love-hate relationship between Korea and the U.S. was born. This time it was hate at its extreme.
Four months later, when the national soccer team played the U.S. in the World Cup, to say that the pressure to win was tremendous is an understatement. The game ended in a draw, but when Korea scored, two players mimicked Ohno’s hands-in-the-air gesture from the Olympics. Korea had not forgotten.
Korean skating officials should be on alert. The city of Seoul had better have contingency plans, and Incheon Airport definitely needs a Plan B. Because when Apolo comes, all hell will break lose. Or so it seems.
At one Korean anti-Apolo site, his picture is placed right next to ― you guessed it ― Osama bin Laden’s.
Apolo stole the gold. Anton has a silly-looking beard. Ohno isn’t exactly a name I would give my kids. But comparing him to Osama Bin Laden? Hmm... Some people must hate this guy really good.
I have digested the Salt Lake City footage as thoroughly as a “Star Wars” movie that’s shown every weekend. Ohno got away with bad acting, lock, stock and barrel. But I think we should let it go.
Just as our nation stands behind every single Korean athlete, Ohno has his own fans, and if things get out of hand we’ll find ourselves in a cyber war, with slogans like “Kimchi stinks!” or “Free the dogs!” flying all over the place. And that may be only the start.
If one has trouble understanding the passion and pride that Koreans take in our athletes, and the resulting ballyhoo surrounding international sports events in which they are involved, one should look at the size of the country and its history.
South Korea is roughly the size of Indiana, which is only the 38th-largest state. Yet a population seven times bigger than Indiana’s lives here. Word gets around quick.
Don’t people in Indiana stick to the Colts and the Pacers like glue? Aren’t the Red Sox close to a religion in New England, never mind Massachusetts? It’s just like that. The difference is, as a nation, there are other emotions involved. This is a country that has risen from the ashes to become what it is today. History and education have shaped the minds of today’s Koreans. There is always this mentality embedded into Koreans that drives us to work very hard.
Sports is another area in which Koreans want to show we can excel. One may call it a complex, but whatever it is, it’s this driving force that makes Koreans so competitive, and has brought us success. Yet perhaps it’s time to stop what may be, at times, just blind affection.


by Brian Lee


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