Olympic figure skating: a Japan-Korea internet hate factory

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    The Olympics were created with the intent of bringing the world together to celebrate peaceful athletic competition. However, for many countries it has become a opportunity to vent nationalist hate. Especially when South Korea, one of Asia’s most nationalistic countries, is facing off against Japan, a country that its schoolchildren are taught to hate and despise.

    In the days leading up to women’s figure skating competition – which would once again see Korean Yuna Kim face off against Japanese skaters, 2channel and Japanese blogs were getting in on the hate-fest. They highlighted how the nationalistic South Korean media was aggressively “stalking” and insulting Japanese figure skater Mao Asada, doing stuff like bluntly asking her questions that implied she would fail in an attempt to mess with her mental state. Japanese netizens also expressed glee about Korean media reactions to a Russian figure skater who supposedly slighted Yuna Kim by telling Korean reporters that that she was not interested in watching the Korean skater’s past performances. They also focused upon examples of ugly Korean nationalism in other Olympic sports, such as the Korean threats against British speed skater Elise Christie.

    When the competition actually began, Mao Asada performed very poorly at first, so she was out of contention for a medal. So Japanese netizens who disliked Korea were left to hope that Kim would be denied a gold medal.

    Their wish came true. A Russian skater won the Gold medal instead, dashing Korean hopes. No doubt some Korean nationalist netizens are complaining somewhere online about unfair judging (an accusation that could be true, given past scandals that have shown figure skating to be a very corrupt “sport” – but if Korean fans are going to start agreeing that figure skating judging is biased, it also makes it possible to doubt the fairness of the amazing scores that Kim got in the past). Since their country lost to Russia, I imagine that most of the hatred will be directed at that country.

    Since I cannot read Korean, and this is a blog about Japan, I will instead introduce how their Japanese counterparts have celebrated with online posts gloating about Kim’s misfortune. Here are a couple examples of stuff that has been popular with anti-Korean netizens.

    1) Other figure skaters hate Yuna Kim

    yuna kim lonely silver medal

    friendly vs formal

    Screen captures after Adelina Sotnikova’s gold medal victory show her and bronze medalist Carolina Kostner being very friendly to each other. It looks like the other two friends, hugging and high-fiving, or maybe Kostner is just a very gracious about accepting her 3rd place finish. Yuna Kim is off to the side, looking like a loner who is either unfriendly towards her fellow skaters, and/or is disliked by them. (Maybe the screen captures were deliberately selected to leave out Kim’s more friendly side?)

    Alongside the images from yesterday, Japanese netizens have also posted old video clips that supposedly back up the “nobody likes Yuna Kim” theory. The above clip is from 2010, and shows Kim awkwardly being left out of the other skaters’ group hugs.

    little kids

    Even little kids are shown to avoid hugs with Kim…

    2) Korean fans de-face a Mao Asada banner

    korean fans cover mao asada

    A screen capture from the NHK broadcast of the competition shows a Mao Asada banner that has literally been defaced by Korean fans. Somebody has placed a South Korean flag directly over Asada’s face. The placement is too perfect for it to be a mere accident.

    3) It’s not all anti-Korean stuff

    Amid the anti-Korean feeling of certain Japanese netizens, there are some examples of popular articles that were somewhat positive towards Korea. One article from Searchina notes that the Korean media criticized the manners of Russian fans, who apparently cheered and laughed when Mao Asada fell during her performance. Somebody also translated comments from Korean netizens who praised Asada’s second day performance, which was a career best for her.

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