Time to rid society of ‘class’ labeling of sportsIn 1985, Korea’s per-capita gross national product was $2,229. Last year, it stood at $10,013, while the entire Korean society has set its sights on the $20,000 mark as the next goal it hopes to achieve.
Nineteen years ago there were approximately four ski resorts in the country. Today, there are 13. Although Korea isn’t a society built on an ideology that defines class enemies, skiing in those days was often branded as a bourgeois sport, something that was meant only for the rich and privileged.
Often, evening news anchors would associate skiing with extravagant spending ― something bad. Today, golf has usurped that role.
Nowadays, whenever winter knocks on the door, skiing is seen as the winter sport. The country’s major newspapers roll out articles in their weekend sections on where to ski, and that includes snowboarding as well.
An outsider might think that short-track speed skating would have a big following in Korea as a winter sport, given all the hype when it comes to international events, but that’s not the case.
Currently, in winter, skiing is the chic thing to do. A ski shop owner told me that the profit margin on a full ski set (skis, bindings, boots and poles) has declined to one tenth of what it was 19 years ago.
At that time, those who sold skis could put virtually any price tag on their goods they felt like, since for those who could afford to ski there was little concern about the cost.
“Definitely there are many more people skiing nowadays. Besides, credit cards have made it easier for people to buy the equipment,” the shop owner said.
While he never told me what the margin is these days, his response, “Well I can’t complain,” told me that he’s still doing good business.
The Korea Ski Association estimates that 4.4 million people spent time on the ski slopes last season. But an official admitted that the count isn’t accurate since it may include people who have visited several times.
This season, the official estimates that the number of skiers will drop by 20 to 30 percent due to the sluggish economy. So it seems that finally the bourgeois-branded sport may have truly reached the masses.
In a sluggish economy the middle class cut expenses, especially in areas that are considered to be expendable, like entertainment.
Nevertheless, I am certain that most ski shops, and indeed most skiers, are located in the Seoul area or other metropolitan areas of the country. And somehow I still believe that skiing is still too expensive to call it a mass sport in a true sense, as it is portrayed by the media.
When people other than Seoulites, such as the local citizens who live near the ski resorts, can use the slopes without worrying too much about the cost, then it may be considered a mass sport.
While I have said that sports should never be branded as “class sports,” it is clear that we are living in a free-market society, and when someone chooses to participate in a sport that might be out of the reach of others’ purses, so be it. It’s not the media’s job to make an issue out of it.
Whenever the economy is in a slump, it’s silly how the media report on how many people have gone on golf trips, hinting that it’s against the “sentiment of the people.”
No, let me rephrase that: It’s idiotic , at best. Leave sport just as it is.
by Brian Lee