Olympics set nationalism ablaze
By Kang Hyun-kyung
People are taught to respect the Olympics as a global event that transcends politics. A South Korea-China rivalry in the men’s 400-meter freestyle final at the London Olympics, however, showed that it was only a matter of time before such idealism fell apart, when athletes from countries in a diplomatic row are competing for medals at the Olympics.
On Saturday evening, the nation’s biggest portal NAVER was flooded with China-bashing messages posted by angry Koreans in the wake of a decision to disqualify the nation’s swimming sensation Park Tae-hwan for a false start. Park was later reinstated after protesting the disqualification and won the silver medal in the final.
Initially it was incorrectly reported that a Chinese judge made the decision to disqualify the South Korean athlete. Later the nationality of the judge in question was corrected to Canadian.
Before this, a conspiracy theory had mushroomed online for hours until Park was reinstated.
Some bloggers and Internet users raised the suspicion that the “Chinese judge” made the decision to favor Sun Yang, a Chinese swimmer who competed in the final. The allegation fanned anger, leading to China-bashing on the Web.
A blogger identified as “yuennjae” alleged in his tweet that the judge in question was a former coach of Chinese athlete Sun. Hundreds of Internet users retweeted this.
Some bloggers said the Chinese judge humiliated South Koreans by disqualifying Park who did nothing wrong in his race.
Park topped the list in NAVER’s most searched information Saturday night. Park received hundreds of encouragement messages, although at that time chances for him competing in the final were dim as it was extremely rare for such a disqualification decision to be reversed at the Olympics.
Before the disqualification decision, a defending champion, Park, the gold medalist in the 400-meter freestyle at the Beijing Olympics, revealed his confidence about the race.
Rampant China-bashing lasted for hours before FINA reversed the Canadian judge’s decision to disqualify Park.
The disqualification decision came shortly after the media reports that Kim Young-hwan, a human rights activist, who was freed after 114 days in detention in China, was tortured with electric shocks.
The Chinese government denied this.
Some bloggers described China as a blatant nation that not only tortured South Korean human rights activists but also intended to disqualify the gold medal favorite.
After the correction of the nationality of the judge who made the decision was corrected, the misconception disappeared.
But the rare coincidence of the wrong information of the judge who made the wrong decision and the diplomatic row aggravated some Koreans, fanning anti-Chinese sentiment, although it was short-lived.