We only see what we want to see

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We only see what we want to see


I went to Italy a few months after the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup, and I spent a few days with a Korean tour guide who first came to Rome to study but ended up living there. Naturally, the conversation moved on to football. The guide flared up when we began to discuss the World Cup match between Korea and Italy.

“Why were Korean players so rough? They were doing Taekwondo, not soccer. How could they beat up other players when they were cornered? I couldn’t go out of my house for a week. My kids couldn’t go to school. I had to hide that I was a Korean. The match is on television all the time.”

He was right. I saw the footage of the match on television later that night, and I was surprised to see Italian players getting kicked and hit. The Korean players didn’t hesitate to foul the other team. Francesco Totti got a red card for making a dive - often referred to as “Hollywood action” - but in the replay, he was tripped by Song Jong-guk. The match didn’t look like anything I knew or what every Korean remembered.

We only see what we want to see. In sports, the decision is only controversial when you lose. If you win, you don’t mind the decision. Unfavorable decisions actually make victories even more impressive. So the defeated always doubts the decision. From an Italian’s point of view, Italy lost to Korea only because of the host country’s home advantage.

The foreign media reported extensively on the recent controversial scores in Olympic figure skating. It was an unprecedented situation. Something seemed not right, even to the eyes of the third parties. Koreans feel completely frustrated. But the Russians would not agree if the decision were reversed. No winner would say they won due to a biased decision.

In figure skating, artistic merit counts. Even a game of football or a sprint has room for controversy, but figure skating judges have to try and score artistic qualities. They measure the impression made by artistic moves using a number. It is too naive to believe that artistry can be scored fairly. Humans are not rational. We all take sides, and I take Korea’s side.

It is Russia again. Ahn Hyun-soo’s citizenship change created an uncomfortable controversy and Kim Yu-na lost the gold medal to a Russian skater. On June 18, Korea will play against Russia in the first match of the 2014 World Cup. It is a cruel coincidence. What if a Korean striker references Kim Yu-na while celebrating after scoring a goal? Korean players actually did that in the match against the United States at the 2002 World Cup, mocking Apolo Anton Ohno. But it won’t be so easy this time. After all, who can do a triple jump with a graceful smile like Yu-na?

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 26, Page 31

*The author is a culture and sports writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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