South Korea – The Olympic Revolution of the New Millennium
I -Eva Peron, Korea and the Olympics
Before Korea became one of the most industrialized nations on the entire Asian continent, Argentina -it is about 26 times the size of SK- was one of the world’s six richest countries. Around the same time, they were getting off on the right foot in the Olympic Games, 먹튀.
Argentina -now a football-loving nation- was home to sixty percent of Latin America’s Olympic winners-aquatics, boxing, polo, rowing, track-field. At the 1948 London Games, they finished 13th in the medal standings. In contrast to its neighbours, Argentina had an Olympic champ to cheer in that year , when Delfo Cabrera won a gold medal. On that occasion, Korea was certainly not lucky,and finished 32nd in the medal table. Korea’s first Olympic national team was formed in the late 40s. But Koreans dare to dream the impossible.
At the 1951 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires, the host country finished first in the count medal- where America was ousted from the number one spot for the first time in Continental Games history by Argentina.
But Argentina is now history. In the last Olympics, the Latin American nation only won two golds-soccer & cycling. Ironically, Argentina-where there are snow-mountains- has never won an Olympic medal in the Winter Games. Then, in April 2009, the Bolivian men’s soccer squad upset team Argentina, which was trained by soccer player-turned-coach Diego Armando Maradona, 6-1.
Different from Argentina, Japan, Australia and Canada, SK is ranked among the five best Olympic teams, along with China, America, Russia and Germany. This superb team is a paradigm on Earth.
Korea expects to send about 50 champs to the XXI Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada. The country’s athletic rulers also expect to send 250 champs to the London 2012 Olympics.
II-A Small Nation With A Big Ambition
From my perspective I think that South Korea is the most successful Olympic nation in history. Now SK became a source of inspiration for many Olympic countries around the world. Certainly, it is a role model for small countries -from Austria to Brunei Darussalam- and multiparty States -e.g. India, Taiwan, Chile, Peru, Argentina.
The Republic of Korea, also known as South Korea, is about the size of Indiana. More than 49 million people live there-it is not far off the total in Ukraine. Unlike Venezuela-it has had the benefit of high oil prices, Peru and Angola, Korea has few natural resources. This nation does not have oil, diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, gas, and uranium.
But in the last decades of the 20th century, the Korean State introduced an industrialization program and expand education. The rulers devoted more than 20 percent of its national budget to the development human-education, culture, welfare, sports. Now SK has one of the world’s strongest economies.
III-The Difficult Years
In the 1940s and 1950s, SK was a war-torn nation-World War II and Korean War. Because of this, it became one of the world’s poorest nations. After World War II ended 35 years of Japanese domination and Korea gained its independence (1948).
From 1950 to ’53 nearly three million Koreans died. On the other hand, there were, 500,000 Koreans living overseas. In the following decades Korea was governed by military warlords. In the 1990s SK became a democratic nation.
IV- A Nation of Sports Lovers
During the 1960s and 1970s, the rule introduced many sports reforms -a strong emphasis on physical education into educational system- and did many things to improve sporting life in the nation-an official policy that continued in the 1990s and 2000s. In just a few years, they also promoted the sports that were not well-known in the country.
Success came slowly at first. The number of Asian awards increased from around 27 in 1958 to more than 65 in 1978. From 1964 to ’76, the country’s champs earned 12 Olympic medals. Another example, Korea’s boxers, led by Moon Sung-Kil, won many global titles in the 1980s.
Unlike Cuba -which had a lot of coaches from the USSR, East Germany, Bulgaria, North Korea and Poland- SK did not have foreign coaches. All its Olympic awards were produced by Korean coaches.
To support Seoul’s bid to host the 1988 Olympics, the Korean chairmans hosted many international events -the 1979 Shooting World Championships, the 1982 Baseball World Cup, the 1982 Boxing Global Championships and the Korea Cup (volleyball)-and built world-class stadiums.
V- The Boycott Against South Korea
During Cold War, especially between 1950 and 1985, Korea was an isolated Olympic nation. This Asian country was considered an international pariah by the World Marxist and several anti-American states (Korea became a UN member in 1991).
The 1979 Seoul FIBA Women’s World Championships were boycotted by the Soviet Union and its allies. Three years later, Cuba’s boxers, world & Olympic champions, were not allowed to compete in the World Cup by Fidel Castro. That same year, Cuba also did not send baseball players to the World Championships in South Korea.
In 1986 North Korea boycotted the Asian Games. The Democratic People’ s Republic of Korea refused to send champs to SK. Subsequently, the XXIV Seoul Summer Olympic Games were boycotted by seven nations-Albania, Cuba, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, North Korea, and Seychelles. However, the sports officials sent several champs to Moscow, Varna, Havana and Prague.
VI – Seoul Olympic Games- A Gold Medal for Korea
During the IOC Session in Germany in 1981, Seoul was selected as host country for the 1988 Summer Olympics, and began a new era for the country’s sports development. Seoul beat Nagoya, Japan’s city. That decision caused surprise around the world.
Thirty-eight years ago, Seoul had been destroyed by Korean War, but it had been rebuilt in record time. In the ’70s and early ’80s, Seoul was a successful host to several international tournaments.
The IOC awarded Seoul the Olympics by a margin of 15 votes. Kim Un-Yong -one of the world’s best Olympic czars- was a key figure behind South Korea’s bid to host the 1988 Summer Olympics. He was runner-up when Jacques Rogge was elected IOC chairman.
SK, an anti-Marxist state in the 20th century, did not have full diplomatic ties with the World Soviet-which had won the last three Olympics- and the People’s Republic of China-the new Olympic member. Moscow could have boycotted the Games in South Korea.
Secondly, Korea was not a multiparty-state on the Asian region. In 1980, a demonstration organized by the pro-democratic groups turned into the bloody riot known as the “Kwangju Massacre”. In 1974 South Korea’s First Lady had been assassinated. Some time later, ruler Park Chung Hee was killed by the head of South Korea CIA in Seoul.
At the 24th Summer Games, SK won 12 gold medals and was one of the four best sports teams on the planet.
The Opening ceremony was spectacular. The next day, the photos were seen all over the world and from that moment the name Korea was known everywhere. Meanwhile, representatives from 159 countries attended the Olympics, including the USSR and China.
Seoul’88 was a political-blow to the Communist Movement. The Kremlin sent 514 champs to the 1988 Games. That travel had the blessing of the Soviet regime, which had boycotted the Summer Olympics in the States in 1984. Then, more than 290 champs -e.g Petra Felke, Heike Drechsler, Kristin Otto- were sent by the East German warlords- a landslide victory for the Korean chairmans. But there were other friends too: The Vietnamese rule allowed champs from Vietnam to attend the Summer Games. Certainly, sports was an important diplomatic tool for Korea.
VII- Democracy & Sports
In the country’s first multiparty presidential election, in December 1992, Kim Young Sam -a passionate human-rights advocate-, was elected, and the Asian nation returned to civilian rule. It was a watershed moment.
Now South Korea is one of the most outstanding democracies -human development and democracy- in Asia and a role model for several post-dictatorship states. From then on, Korea has one of the world’s most ambitious educational projects-many young people study more than 11 hours.
Under the new democratic rulers, SK has reinforced its sporting system. Certainly they wanted to be the centre of excellence in Asia. The Olympic Korean team surprised the world when it emerged as a “new world power” in the 21st century. On the other hand, the country staged successful 2002 World Cup and 2003 World University Games.
In the two-year period between the 2006 Winter Games and 2008 Summer Olympics, Korea won 42 awards (19 golds, 13 silvers, 10 bronzes) and finished five in the unofficial team standings, behind China, Russia, Germany and the U.S. Korea’s delegation was backed up by President Roh Moo-Hyn. In addition to the Olympic and world titles, South Korea has won several Asian gold medals. They competed with 45 countries in the Olympic-type Asian Games.
Before the 1992 Winter Olympic Games, Korea had not won any medal. Without the sporting tradition of Czechoslovakia and Sweden, Korea has more Winter Olympic medals than Spain and Japan. For this reason, the government lent its support to a bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics. In Guatemala City, Pyongchang was only beaten for the Winter Games by Sochi (Russia).
VIII- From Archery to Wrestling
Since the 2000s Korea is powerhouse in aquatics, archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, fencing, field hockey, gymnastics, handball, judo, shooting, short-track, table tennis, taekwondo, volleyball, weightlifting, wrestling,and other sports.
Archers With Olympic Honours
Korea has produced world-beating archers in recent years. From 1984 to 2008 they have won 16 gold medals. The country’s archers, inspired by Seo Hyang-Soon, won 3 of the 4 events at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000.
Athletics-Fusion of Past, Present and Future
In the first half of the 20th century, two Koreans, Suh Yun Bok & Ham Kee Yong, won the Boston Marathon. In 2001 Bong-Ju Lee became the first non-African to win the Boston Marathon since 1991. The country’s marathon runner Hwang Young-Cho – one of Korea’s most well-known champs- claimed a gold medal at the 25th Summer Olympics in Spain. Hwang is the second sportsman from an Asian nation to win an event in this competition. Korean-born Kijung Son won the Olympic title in 1936. At the Berlin 1936 Games, he had been forced to run in the colors of the occupying Japanese forces.
Badminton-Stage of Stars
Since 1985 SK became one of the world’s best teams. Lee Yong-Dae and Lee Hyo-Jung defeated Lilyana Natsir and Nova Widianto (Indonesia) in the mixed doubles final at the China Summer Olympics in 2008. Korea placed first at the 1996 Olympic Badminton Tournament in the States-it collected two gold and silver medals.
Baseball- SK vs Cuba
Baseball has come a long away in South Korea. Its greatest year was 2008, when Korea won the gold at the Beijing Olympic Games, beating Cuba, former world champion (1984-2005). Eight years ago, they had earned a bronze medal in Sydney 2000. When the Games were opened in China, the States-2007 world champion- and Cuba were contending odds-on favorites.
The year 1982 was very happy for Korea too. That year they became the first Asian team to win a World Cup. The national team came close to winning the Global Championships in 2005.
Women’s Basketball-Asian Superstar
Surprisingly SK was runner-up at the FIBA Women’s World Cup in Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s.In 1979, Korea, host country, placed second at the Global Championships. They caused an upset in the second round of the World Cup by beating the favorite America (94-82). Four years later, Korea was one of the semi-finalist in the Universal Championships in Sao Paulo, Brazil-behind the USSR, America and the People’s Republic. But they did not stop there. The following year it earned silver at the Summer Olympic Games in California, USA. The team became the first women’s basket team in Asia to win an Olympic award.
Fencing-New Olympic Awards
In 2000 Young Ho Kim lived up to reputation as one of the most popular Asian fencers by winning a gold medal at the Summer Games. He is the first fencer from an Asian country to win an Olympic title.
Field Hockey- A Major Asian Talent
In the past few decades, the Korean teams have won three Olympic silver medals. During this period of time, SK became the first Asian female team to qualify for the Olympic finals. The national men’s team won silver at the 2000 Sydney Games and were fourth at the 2002 World Championships. In Australia they, spearheaded by Song Seung-Tae, defeated India (2-0), Poland (3-2), and Pakistan (1-0) before losing to the Netherlands (4-5). Amazing silver medal!