Saturday, February 03, 2007

Geopolitical protest from the podium

In an act similiar to the black power salute at the 1968 Olympics, a recent Chosun Ilbo article shows silver-medlist South Korean speedskaters using their moment on the podium to make a political statement about a terroritorial dispute between North Korea and China, that Mt. Baekdu is part of Korea.

This raises some interesting issues:

-Sports as a venue for international political debates: is time on the podium (the moment when athletes receive the most attention) an appropriate moment to espouse a political belief?

-Responses from the ROK and DPRK governments: athletic events have been a venue for tension and separation (the DPRK boycotting the 1988 Seoul Olympic games) and unificiation (the unified Korean team marching together in Olympic opening ceremonies since the 2000 Sydney games). In this case, South Korean athletes are asserting a claim about an issue of terriorial soverneignty between North Korea and China. Given the sacred status of Mt. Baekdu in Korean myth and indentity and their alliance with China, how will the DPRK repond? Given that it's a claim about a mountain that is outside of South Korea but made by South Korean citizens, how will the ROK government respond?

-The strength, intensity and boundaries of Korean national identity: at a moment steeped in patriotism and personal achievement, these South Korean athletes made a politically symbolic statement - asserting their opinion on a contentious issue between China and the DPRK while on Chinese soil. To me, it demonstrates the profund conviction with which Koreans feel towards their country and sense of sovereignty.

-The power of myth: does the use of myth (picture Kim Jong-Il as Neo) further legitimize or delegitimize Korea's claim on Mt. Baekdu?

-Location, location, location: would these athletes have shown this banner had the Winter Asia Games been held in another country and not in China?

1 comment:

Eric said...

I think athletic events as a venue for political engagement is really interesting.

I wonder how much pressure from the government is placed on the actions and words of atheletes in the world spotlight. I would guess quite a bit, at least from tyrannical states (i.e. the abuse of the Iraq Soccer team).

Also, in the case of North Korea, if atheletes are forced to endure the flipflop of political posturing (i.e. the unification and seperation examples Jaime gave), how does that affect the status of atheletes in those countries? Other effects?

Does anyone have any information on the South Korean side of the seperation/unification stories?