[VIEWPOINT]Reacting to unfairness on ice

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[VIEWPOINT]Reacting to unfairness on ice

As an American, I feel compelled to offer a word to Kim Dong-sung and to all Koreans on the controversy surrounding the short track gold medal during this year's Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

I am certainly not an expert on short track skating and I am not qualified to judge such an event, but as a nonexpert who saw the event and watched the numerous video replays of the final moments of the encounter between Mr. Kim and Apollo Ohno, I am overwhelmed with the feeling that the competition was unfair. Mr. Kim clearly won the race, and his movement from the right to the left should not have disqualified him.

If Mr. Ohno wanted to pass he should have done so to the right of Mr. Kim rather than trying to sneak through on the inside where he did not have sufficient room to pass safely even if Mr. Kim had not moved left.

In any event, despite whatever feelings we might have that what happened was unfair, the Australian judge made his decision, no doubt influenced by Mr. Ohno's actions during the race and the home crowd. As a result of the decision of the Australian judge, Mr. Kim was stripped of his gold medal.

Olympic analysts say that absent obvious fraud, the decision of the judge is not subject to challenge or review. As has become common practice in American football, perhaps the Olympics should use video replays to review calls of officials in events in which objective judgements are required. The review of videotapes in the appeal would have confirmed Mr. Kim as the gold medal winner.

The decision of this Australian judge and the subsequent inappropriate humor of Jay Leno, an American comedian, have had an impact beyond the world of sports. Korea's online community has united; after the decision, the Web site of the International Olympic Committee and Ohno were closed down by the volume of e-mails and electronic messages from Koreans.

A boycott of U.S. products and U.S. affiliated fast food restaurants is now under way here. McDonald's and Coca Cola have become the symbolic targets of Korean frustration, and several demonstrations have occurred in front of these businesses' Korean offices.

After the bombing of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, a tidal wave of prejudice against Islam surged in the United States, and individuals from the Middle East have been the subject of biased comments and actions. When Japanese investors acquired the Rockefeller Center in New York City and Pebble Beach Golf Course in California, anti-Japanese demonstrations were staged in the United States, and U.S. consumer groups called for boycotts of Japanese products.

This type of reaction is not unusual and is commonly seen in the United States and other countries. Unfortunately, these boycotts generally do not have the desired impact, and in the case of the boycott of McDonald's in Korea or other similar actions, the only real losers are the employees and the suppliers of these businesses, who are also Korean. Only time will heal this type of frustration.

I was greatly impressed by the courage displayed by Mr. Kim and in particular by his comments to the press in which he showed his resolve to become an even more competitive skater. We wish him continued success in future competition and praise him for his dedication.

We have the opportunity to focus on the World Cup soccer games. We have every confidence that Korea will be a tremendous host for the World Cup games and we hope that the referees for the World Cup will avoid the kind of mistake made by the Australian judge.


The writer is the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea.

by Jeffrey Jones

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