Japan from the inside out

How sporting of them

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, September 2, 2012

THE above photo showing a taxicab with the warning that the driver will refuse to accept Korean passengers was taken in Taiwan.

Unseen by the media eye in Japan and the West — but not in the Sinosphere — is that anti-Korean sentiment is ablaze in Taiwan. It’s become so heated that President Ma Ying-jeou has asked his countrymen to keep the cool head.

There’s been a long-simmering irritation in Taiwan with the behavior of Korean athletes and judges in international sporting competitions. It’s based on the widespread perception that the Koreans play and judge dirty. There is also irritation at Korean media and Net user behavior when they’re displeased by unfavorable results in those competitions. This being East Asia, there are additional complications, and one of them is the charge, even in Taiwan, that pro-PRC Taiwanese use the Koreans as a target to redirect anger from the mainland.

Emotions started to boil two years ago when Taiwanese representative Yang Shu-jun was favored to win a medal at the Asia taekwondo championships, and you can see where this is leading. The dispute arose when Ms. Yang was in the process of trouncing her Vietnamese opponent. The judge disqualified her mid-match for having one sensor too many on the backs of both her shoes. The sensors detect strikes of the opponent, and the extra sensor might have made it easier to score points.

Ms. Yang was told to remove the sensors during a pre-match inspection. After she passed the mandatory formal inspection, a judge spotted the sensors again during the match, which caused the disqualification. That touched off a Youtube link battle with videos of the match and Internet combatants insisting there was nothing extrasensory about her footwear at all. The Taiwanese were also upset because the decision was made without giving their side a chance to explain. That the match judge was a Filipino citizen of Korean ancestry and the World Taekwando Federation secretary-general is Korean made it all the more entertaining for everyone.


The most recent Taiwanese explosions started with Korean complaints of unfair judging during the London Olympics.

One incident involved South Korean fencer Shin A-lam, who lost a match against a German opponent after a dispute over whether there was a timekeeping foul-up. The South Koreans appealed and lost that too. Ms. Shin stayed on the floor waiting for the result of the appeal, because leaving would have meant that she accepted the ruling. The English-language media described this as a “sit-in protest”. She was finally led away before the decision was announced.

The call of All Hands to Battle Stations went out in the South Korean media, whose scribes make the lads of Fleet Street look like choirboys, the tabloids included. The Kyunghyang Shinmun complained that the South Koreans were a target of the judges, and they began to refer to the Olympics as the “Oshimpics”. That’s a bilingual pun using the Korean word oshim for judging mistake. (The Japanese know the same word as 誤審, or goshin.) The newspaper added:

“England is said to be the country of gentlemen, but it is being criticized for having none of the characteristics of gentlemen at all. The errors in judgment are concentrated against Koreans.”

Others pointed out the reason for all the mistakes was that the 2012 Olympic mascot had only one eye.

This being South Korea, they were most upset at three decisions in which their worthies came out on the short end in matches involving Japanese athletes. One in particular that brought forth gale-strength gusts of hot air was a judo match between Ebinuma Masashi of Japan and Cho Jun-ho of South Korea. Mr. Cho was declared the winner, but members of the Referee Commission of the International Judo Federation immediately intervened to point out that Mr. Ebinuma was not given credit for a successful attack. The decision was reversed and the victory awarded to the Japanese athlete. From the South Korean news media:

* “This favoritism for Japan was obvious.”

* “Was Japan the reason for the reversal?…Cho’s opponent was from Japan, the judo colonial power, and unseen pressure overturned the judges’ decisions.”

Yes, they said “colonial power”.

* “Overturning the decision was unprecedented. What we can understand from this is that unimaginable power was exerted by Japan, the country where judo originated…The entire world should support the victory of our South Korean nation.”

There were also complaints that a Japanese judge was responsible. No Japanese names were among the several judges and commission members mentioned in the British newspaper reports I read.

The reaction in China

This behavior piqued the interest of Chinese sports fans. A column on the Sina news network said the Koreans should stop complaining because the adverse decisions were the result of “cause and effect”. The author added that Koreans did nothing but complain and looked at things only from their perspective.

A thread on this topic began on the bulletin board connected to the Baidu search engine in China. Here’s a sample of the comments as reported in the Chinese media.

* The South Korean surefire method of victory when they lose is to blame it on the judges.

* This again? Koreans are Koreans, I guess. Frogs at the bottom of the well.

* The only thing the Koreans know how to do is blame judges.

* In other words, what they’re saying is they would have won if the judge were Korean.

* This is really tiring. Why don’t we just save ourselves all the trouble and let the Koreans win everything?

* Before long the Korean media will be saying that the Japanese winner really has Korean blood.

If you’re keeping score at home, this is touché times six.

Thus began a new game on the Taiwanese Internet: Let’s see how we can take the piss out of the Koreans by redesigning their flag. Here’s one example.

Another included replacing the blue and red circle in the middle with two pigs embracing, and yet another replaced the disc with a steaming pile of dung. More diversions were provided by launching a cyber-attack on the website of the office of the South Korean president, burning Korean flags, and throwing eggs at Korean schools. That’s when both President Ma and Yang Shu-jun asked everyone to settle down.

Little of this, as far as I’ve seen, has appeared directly in the Japanese mass media. I found most of it on the websites that offer direct Japanese translations of articles from the Chinese media and websites.

One Japanese news aggregator picked up a survey conducted by Yahoo! South Korea, which found that 62.2% of the Korean respondents thought the South Korean government should get involved to actively oppose the desecration of the national flag. They knew their readers would be amused to see the Korean response once the shoe was stuck on the other foot. After all, the Japanese have seen plenty of these photos:

Meanwhile, the South Korean news media started chewing on some bloody shirts of their own in their flag featurettes. They scrutinized KBS film from the Japan-South Korea soccer match at the Olympics until they found this one shot:

That fully unfurled the anger of the South Korean New Daily news website. They were upset because FIFA declared the Bak Jong-soo pitch trot — which they referred to as “the Dokdo ceremony” — to be political, and therefore out of bounds. New Daily agreed that what one fan does in the stands isn’t the same as what an athlete does on the playing field, BUT:

“This flag, which is strictly prohibited by the international community, was overlooked by FIFA, which thought that a reference to Dokdo of the Republic of Korea (大韓民国) was political. These people are are true Japanese sympathizers. These London Olympics have shown that FIFA has zero diplomatic ability in sports.”

That the flag in question is “strictly prohibited by the international community” will come as news to the international community. Incidentally, accusing someone in South Korea of being a Japanese sympathizer in the current climate is the rough equivalent of claiming that they read a chapter of Mein Kampf every night before bed.

That’s created some synergy with the local dish of histrionics du jour:

As always, the Japanese mass media is the epitome of sang-froid when incidents such as these arise. You don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s a clip from the Japanese broadcast of the women’s basketball match between Japan and South Korea in Ankara in June for a berth in the Olympics that Japan won 79-51. Japanese language ability isn’t required to understand the tone of voice when the play-by-play announcers watch the Korean team deploy their “boxing out” techniques. South Korea is in black and Japan is in white.


7 Responses to “How sporting of them”

  1. They’re stuck with each other, so hope they can dial it down some.
    TSI: Thanks for the note. That would be a good idea, but I’m not sanguine about it. There’s a lot of tribalism in this part of the world. Then again, there’s a lot of tribalism everywhere else in the world, too.


  2. Aki said

    The rising sun flag is still used by the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force and internationally recognized as such. It would be more comparable to the Balkenkreuz that is still used by the Federal Defense Force of Germany, rather than to the swastika that had been used as an emblem of the Nazi Party.

  3. 21st Century Schizoid Man said
    A: Read this, may be interesting.
    2: This is very good. I actually already knew about 本貫 from studying Korean. I was taking a Korean class taught by a local college student in Japan for one year. (She didn’t understand how to teach, but she was nice, energetic, and tried hard.) I ran across that word in my studies on my own, and asked her where hers was to see what she would say.

    The answer was very interesting. At first she waved it off and said, “Oh, young people don’t care about that stuff any more.” And then she explained in great detail for the next ten minutes just where it was and what kind of district it was.


  4. 21st Century Schizoid Man said
    Another one. There is no end to this type of thing. But I think this man, Miyajima, though he was generally ultra left in my memory (he was supporting Mizuho Fukushima all the time), is speaking his minds out in this article, though he meant to be tongue-in-cheek (in which case he failed, at least to me).
    2: Also excellent


  5. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    A: Yet another one. I can continue this with prefix like Return of Yet Another One or something, but I got tired.

  6. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    A: Thanks for comments which were interesting.

  7. […] How sporting of them ( […]

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