Friday, June 18, 2010

[World Cup & North Korea] Schizophrenic South Korea & ESPN

I'm upset and it's not because it looks as if I'm set to lose $5 and it's also not because Brazil beat North Korea or even how offensive ESPN commentators were towards North Koreans or Koreans in general. I was waiting for some mainstream U.S. publications to pick up on this rather than it coming from me. Here's Michael Boyajian at Huffington Post:

ESPN made fun of North Korea's leader, the team's coach, their fans, the names of their players and their overall performance in a very unsporting manner. Such a diatribe would not be tolerated in American sports whether it was baseball, football, hockey or yes soccer. In fact in my entire lifetime I have never seen such reactionary conduct while watching a sporting event even during the Olympics at the height of the Cold War.

I'm very upset at the response of South Koreans.

Now, with that said, it's hard not to laugh along with some of the cheap shots aimed at the North Koreans'. For example, EPSN was mocking the "invisible telephone line" that North Korea's coach claimed he had with Kim Jong Il or the alleged Chinese fans, who were being paid to root for North Korea, were pretty funny. Or, the references to North Korean players being showed a mobile phone or a refrigerator for the first time.

But, some of the other comments, such as making fun of the North Korean players' names were, well, decidedly not so funny. Also, I couldn't help but look at how old all the North Korean players all looked. It seemed as if the North Korean government interreputed some Korean ajeoshi's (middle-aged men) game of Baduk ("Go") and dropped them off next to arguably the most stylish, popular, and talented soccer team (Brazil) in the world. The contrast could not be more striking. Nonetheless, the North Koreans even qualifying and coming to the World Cup in and of itself is a solid achievement. Consider that neither of the two Chinas (China or Taiwan) or ethnic Chinese states (such as Singapore) were able to qualify for the World Cup.

As an American with no emotional attachment to the Korea, it'd be easy to overlook all this, but for South Koreans, who were in a similar situation not too long ago, their profound silence on the matter is deeply disturbing and baffling. In particular, it reminds me of the sham Sunshine Policy with its direct policy of engaging North Korea by providing them with the least amount of material aid necessary to keep the North Korean regime intact as South Korea can grow ever richer while some how trying to block out that they have an enormous amount of baggage attached to them -- the 23 or 24 million Koreans that live between the DMZ and China.

All the while, while this game was being broadcast, it was hard not to overlook the halftime report sponsored by Hyundai, the Kia signs -- a Hyundai subsidiary -- all over the soccer stadium, and commercials of new phones and flat screen televisions by Samsung. Now, what amazes me is that I can understand how ESPN commentators would mock North Koreans, but what I can't understand is how South Koreans are able to sit by and abide all this.

It was not too long ago that ESPN commentators would probably have been doing the exact same thing with respect to a South Korean team, such as mocking the names of Korean players or the ESPN commentator even making the comment "there are just too many Koreans [for the Brazilians to score]..." Not even with a decade ago, David Letterman was still making references to cheap South Korean cars -- I believe this was in 2002 and Hyundai even offered him a Tiburon to test drive -- for his comments on the Late Show.

On a side note: I thought it to be a mighty statement of how far South Korea has come in their struggle for legitimacy against North Korea when South Korea has monopolized the three letters, "KOR" as an abbreviation for South Korea or "Korea Republic."

Also, what I found to be amazing was the comment by ESPN commentators about thanking those of watching the Armed Forces Network for American soldiers stationed overseas in "175 countries and territories..."

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