Olympian figure skater takes flak for off-ice life
Kim Yu-na holds up a skate, as she gives a lecture at Jinseon Girls’ High School in southern Seoul on May 8. She is participating in a month-long teaching practice as part of her physical education degree at Korea University. / Yonhap
By Jung Min-ho
Is it a fall from grace or public tiredness of a star they once adored?
That is one question that Olympic gold medal winning figure skater Kim Yu-na may be asking herself these days. After coming under fire from a group of psychiatrists for advertising beer in a TV commercial, the 21-year-old is facing an accusation from a professor that her teaching practice was nothing but a “show,” aimed at maintaining her commercial value.
Yonsei University psychology professor Hwang Sang-min roundly criticized Kim’s teaching practice at a girls’ high school as self-promotion.
The figure skating star began her teaching practice on May 8 as part of the curriculum for her physical education degree at Korea University, at Jin-seon Girls’ High School in southern Seoul.
Appearing on a CBS radio talk show and responding to the host’s observation that the star was “sincere” about her responsibilities, Hwang said: “I think you picked the wrong word. Sincere action is supposed to be steady,” said Hwang. “Kim didn’t go there sincerely. Rather, it was a show for her one-time action, which is a more precise term.”
“Kim spends most of her time training overseas. It is not right for the school to give credits to someone who barely even goes to class,” Hwang said. “Did Kim meet all the requirements for the teaching practice, faithfully attending the school for the last four years?”
Kim’s agency All That Sports said they are going to take “legal action” against Hwang’s “derogatory remarks.”
“Kim has been sincerely participating in the teaching practice program since the first day on May 8,” an official with the agency said. “We are going to take legal action against his remarks since they have apparently tarnished Kim’s public image.”
Kim recently drew extensive attention when she recently appeared on a commercial for best-selling beer Hite. Controversy has surrounded the 21-year-old about her dramatically-reduced athletic activities since she topped the podium in Vancouver in 2010.
During the radio show, Hwang also criticized universities’ marketing strategies of admitting sports stars, who barely even attend classes, just to promote their school.
“We give too many privileges such as exemptions from mandatory military service. This idolizing of certain sports stars is only shown in immature societies.”
Hwang’s remarks soon aroused a big fuss among fans. Some attacked the professor’s comments saying they were too critical of the young figure skater who enhanced national prestige by winning a plethora of honors and awards in international competitions. Others said Hwang made a good point although it sounded a little harsh saying, “It is an apparent privilege since other students in the same department study really hard for four years to meet the requirements for the teaching practice.”
In fact, star athletes’ privileges for admission to prestigious universities is not news in many other countries. Even in the United States, many sports stars get into decent schools on the back of their unique credentials. However, the privileges usually do not go further than the admission process.
As a golf prodigy, Tiger Woods grabbed many world-renowned universities’ attention by winning international competitions. He eventually entered Stanford University from the fall of 1994. However, he had to drop out of the school after two years since it would not give him credits just for his name featuring on the students’ list. In his biography, he said that he was struggling with immense amounts off school work while playing as a professional golfer saying, “What did I get myself into?”
벤쿠버 동계 올림픽 챔피언 김연아가 최근 맥주 광고 출연에 대한 비난에 이어서 연세대학교 교수 황상민으로부터 현재 교생 실습은 단편적인 "쇼" 라는 공개적 비난을 받아 논란이 되고 있다.
현재 고려대학교 체육교육과 4학년에 재학 중인 김연아는, 졸업의 마지막 과정 중 일환인 교생실습을 이번 달 8일부터 참여 하고 있다.
지난 22일 CBS라디오 ‘김미화의 여러분" 프로그램에 출연한 심리학과 황상민 교수는 “김연아가 언제 대학 다녔나. 김연아는 교생실습을 갔다기보다 한 번 쇼를 했다고 표현하는 것이 정확하다”라고 말했다.
이어 황교수는 "교생실습은 4년간 수업을 다 들었다는 것을 의미한다"며 "수업을 제대로 듣지 않아도 학점을 인정해주고 졸업시켜주는 것이 학교인가"라고 말하며, "과도하게 특정 스타를 영웅시 하는 건 후진국적 행태"라고 꼬집었다.
이에 대해, 김연아의 소속사인 올댓스포츠는 황교수의 발언에 대해서 "김연아는 교생 실습이 시작된 이번 달 8일부터, 성실하게 실습에 임하고 있으며, 잘못된 발언으로 김연아의 명예를 손상시킨 황교수의 발언에 대해 법적인 조치에 들어가겠다." 라는 입장을 밝혔다.
황교수는 또한 라디오 쇼에서, "교생실습은 4년간 수업을 다 들었다는 것을 의미한다"며 "수업을 제대로 듣지 않아도 학점을 인정해주고 졸업시켜주는 것이 학교인가"인가 라고 물음을 던졌다.
황교수의 발언은 곧 대중들의 큰 관심을 일으켰다. 몇 몇 네티즌들이 국가적 위상을 올림픽과 같은 큰 무대에서 드 높힌 김연아에게 "너무 과한 비판을 했다" 라고 한 반면, 어떤 네티즌들은 학교를 제대로 나오지도 않으면서 졸업장을 받는 것은 분명히 불공정한 특혜라며 황교수의 입장에 동의를 표시하기도 했다.