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Yu-na Kim and Mao Asada Go Head-to-Head for Olympic Gold

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Mao Asada of Japan (left) and Yu-na Kim of S. Korea (right).

On the shoulders of two young women rest the hope and pride of two nations. Tonight, figure skaters Mao Asada of Japan and Yu-na Kim of South Korea will be battling to see which will take home the gold medal in the Winter Olympics.

For many who will be watching tonight, the sporting competition will take on historical significance. Will South Korea, once dominated by Japan, triumph over its one-time aggressor?

Japan officially occupied the Korean peninsula for more than three decades beginning in 1910 — before there was a North or South Korea. The Japanese made Koreans change their names to Japanese monikers and forbade them to speak Korean, essentially trying to wipe out the Korean culture and peoples.

At the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin, Sohn Kee-chung set a world marathon record to win the first Olympic gold medal by a Korean, but because Korea was at the time occupied by Japanese forces, Sohn had to qualify for the Japanese team, adopt a Japanese name, endure the sight of the Japanese flag being raised and hear the Japanese national anthem being played to celebrate his victory. He bowed his head in protest during the ceremony.

— Reporter Beverly Smith of The Globe and Mail

There is also some research that suggests Korea was once spelled “Corea,” but the spelling was changed by the Japanese colonial government so that Korea would follow Japan alphabetically. (The French still spell it “Corea.”)

Is it fair to thrust all this history upon Korean figure skater Yu-na Kim — in the hopes that a victory over Japanese skater Mao Asada will symbolize the Korean nation’s triumph over Japan? No, it’s not fair. But it is reality.


Written by Asianista

February 25, 2010 at 5:03 pm

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