≡ Menu

이상화 Sanghwa Lee wins the first Sochi gold for South Korea

After several disappointing results in the men’s speed skating (이승훈, 모태범) dominated by the seemingly invincible Netherlands, 이상화Sanghwa Lee finally broke the dry-spell for S.Korea by winning the gold medal for women’s 500m speed skating at Sochi.
It was her second Olympic gold medal 37.42 (first race) + 37.28 (second race) = 74.40 (total) – an Olympic record but not her personal record. She was joined on the podium by Russia’s Olga Fatkulina (silver, 75.06) and Netherlands’ Margot Boer (bronze, 75.48). Lee was coached by Canada’s Kevin Crockett (former name Kevin Overland).

Victor An (Ahn Hyunsoo) who became a Russian national took bronze for Russia at the short track (1500m). It was a meaningful bronze as he left after many revelations and accusations pointing at the Korean Skating Federation (대한민국 빙상연맹), they are indeed riddled with many scandals surrounding favoritism and factionalism. Many Koreans were rooting for him, especially with sympathy at what he had to endure under the Korean skating federation and he has also been cheering for his Korean juniors 후배’s so the bond still seems to be there, and no hard feelings. The latest Korean media interest in him has been from the introduction of his pretty girlfriend Nari Oo who’s meant to have been his fan for 10 years.

This 파싸움(factionalism) within the various Korean sports federations which eats away at the core of Korean sports spirit is not the story of yesterday and today (어제오늘일이 아니다, meaning it’s been around and known for a while). Another famous case is Sarang’s father Choo Sunghoon (Akiyama Yoshihiro) who wanted to compete for South Korea in Judo, but then went back to Japan and took the Japanese nationality to win gold for Japan against Korea. Judging by his appearance and attitude on the Korean television show Superman Returned as Sarang’s father, his bond for Korea is not waning at all.

  • bumfromkorea

    Viktor Ahn needs to do well here. For one, his story is like an awesome sports movie – a talented athlete gets shunned by the evil, corrupted sporting organization, so he goes to Russia and changes his name to Viktor… and now he has to compete against his former teammates.

    But his win over the Korean team may be one of the catalysts that Korea needs to start beating down on the corruption and factionalism in KSU. This shit is getting ridiculous.

  • JW

    Viktor’s story is making these olympics helluva lot more entertaining for alot of people, that’s for certain.

  • dlbarch

    Word! My own initiation into the world of Korean sports “irregularities” was as a 19-year-old sophomore at Cal when, playing host to some regional TaeKwonDo tournament, the Korean officiating was so blatantly, so transparently rigged, that it would make a Las Vegas boxing promoter blush.

    At one point, it got so bad that the head of the American-side delegation, a first-generation kyopo who clearly loved and respected the game, called the Korean officials into a back room and 20 minutes later, the tournament resumed with what was noticeably better officiating.

    Korean athletes are truly “well awesome,” in my mind. Korean sports officials, not so much.


  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Something related to Lee’s 꿀벅지(honey-thighs) : she’s 165cm, 62kg. Did you see how small she was compared to the bronze and silver? Her thigh diameter has increased from 57cm to 60cm apparently in the last year. Still, it’s nothing compared to the others – she looks like a small stick in comparison whose shape remind me of beautiful she-Centaurs.

  • wangkon936

    For many overseas Koreans, their love of Korea seldom wanes, but their hate and bitterness for the system in Korea for which they had to work under can burn bright for awhile.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I need an answer here. MBC and KBS are showing Olympic coverage. Why the hell are they both showing the same, identical thing? It was speed skating for 2 hours last night. Nothing but speed skating. Nothing at all. Why wouldn’t they show different events?

  • yuna_at_marmotshole
  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Here is a more recent and relevant piece on it titled “Do we not get a broadcast if there’s no medal?”
    It seems like a lot of back-and-forth has been happening within the last few years regarding 중복편성 of the Olympic games in Korea.
    Maybe the latest is a step back..

  • eujin

    If 80% of the market want to watch speed skating and each broadcaster thinks they can get half of that, why would either show what only 20% want to see? Competition is a beautiful thing.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Choo Sunghoon is a 4th gen Korean-Japanese. His *great-grandfather* came to Japan, so I find it hard to classify him as just an overseas Korean, although that is at the root of the Zainichi Korean phenomenon…I don’t know any 4th gen American guy who has the same love for Sweden/Germany or wherever as somebody like Choo Sunghoon. So in his case it has probably been exacerbated “Japanese persecution” plus “Korean-minjokness”..

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Most of the races had no Koreans. Are you telling me that Korea is long track speed skating crazy and wants nothing but 2 hours of women’s 500m with maybe 4 minutes combined of Korean participation? I don’t find your explanation plausible. Koreans don’t know jack about, and don’t care about, long track speed skating. This isn’t Holland. I could MAYBE buy that if it was short track when half the skaters were Koreans. But not here. They also did not show events where Koreans WERE participating and where more people would want to watch a sport they don’t really follow in every day life.

  • wangkon936

    I was speaking in general terms.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Not only that, but there also seems to have been a genuine competition over the quality of the commentators between KBS (Sungjoo Kim) and MBC (Hodong Kang!!!!!).
    If there is one person I cannot abide by on Korean TV and that’s Mr.Kang Hodong and everything he stands for – loud, 돼지 멱따는 목소리, low-brow, flaunting ignorance and monopoly (or bipoly, along with Yoo Jaesuk) over all the crappy entertainment shows by sheer brute force.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Quality of commentating is secondary. The sport should be the focus, not the talking heads. Just turn commentary off and show us as much of all the events as possible.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    I agree absolutely. Although I don’t think it would be easy to show the very popular event and not so popular one on on two different channels concurrently. Much easier would be to show the popular ones on TV and the secondary ones on the internet broadcast at the same time, and come back to show maybe the highlights of secondary ones on TV after it’s over.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    None of these sports are popular. They are niche sports and as such they really dont have overwhelming demand from the market. The viewer watches what is shown to him, he does not dictate what he wants to see when it comes to sports that have miniscule public following.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Which is all the more reason to show it when it comes to events like the Olympics, especially by a public broadcasting company like the KBS. In Korea, the popularity is dictated by what wins the medals (especially the gold ones), and winning medals in a discipline with zero public awareness is hard, so it’s a vicious cycle of chicken and egg..which has made it very hard for Korean athletes of all discipline, especially ones which had to pioneer their way into.

    However, I do think this mentality is changing. I can see that from this game. I see that short-track is no longer a Korean dominated sport, and I also see the genuine broadening out of interests by the young kids on the slope..

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    By all means show the Koreans who can win medals, and the ones who dont really have a chance. I have no beef with that. My beef is that instead of 2 hours, 20 minutes could have been spent, here and there, showing 이상화, the other Koreans and some of the major competition, and in the mean time, they could have shown the other events. Again, do we have to watch the Canadian race against the Kazakh when neither has a realistic shot at winning anything? Who wants to see that? But, I suppose that would require some work to ascertain who is worth showing; this way the lazy idiots at MBC and KBS go on autopilot: just show all of one event, the long breaks in action, included.

  • bballi bballi paradise

    They probably didn’t have announcers at those events, or a partnership with feeds from other companies / countries. I’m guessing the budget isn’t very large for the stations covering the games. Just guesses though…

    If you want to watch the games, just get “creative” and stream it on the internet.

  • redwhitedude

    I think they are aware that they are ethnic Koreans even if they are a bit distant from the country socially or perhaps culturally. Don’t know it this counts for something. How about Koryo-Saram a lot of them are now what? 5th or 6th generation going on to 7th generation now.

  • Wedge1

    Dude, just drop Korean cable. I did a while ago and don’t miss it.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    That I don’t know. I do think it’s important to show the whole game, I did feel more excited and appreciated the minus 0.25 seconds or whatever by watching a whole bunch of other pairs race against each other..although strictly they are just racing against the clock and not against the person they are paired against, it did create the atmosphere for me.
    I think I would have been more annoyed at the broadcasters if they had switched games midst live-broadcast only to show Koreans competing in different games..

  • bumfromkorea

    I’ve heard horror stories about the Korean Boxing Association from a family friend myself. Here’s to hoping Ahn proves that KSU needs to be rebuilt from scratch.

    On a side note, I’m loving the choice to name himself Viktor – with a K. Sounds so Russian and so… righteous revengy for some reason.

  • yuna_at_marmotshole

    Apparently he chose it after a ethnic Korean Russian rock-star as well as the fact that it sounds like a winner.
    Good thing that the Korean rock star was not called Loser Choi.


  • DC Musicfreak

    I’ve worked at 3 summer Olympics (Seoul, Athens, Beijing) and watched all the other Olympics on TV in a number of countries over the years and this year I’m doing it in Britain. I must give the BBC very high marks in every respect: no commercials, highly competent commentators and analysts, a focus on the main events with not much evidence of tilting toward where Britain has medal hopes. (They are only a minor winter power) The worst places I’ve watched the Games are Korea and China, where broadcasters are national cheerleaders and not interested in or informed on events in which their countries are not competitive. (China’s worse here because of the Soviet-style national/party glory mentality that drives the sports program and the media.) Japan’s coverage is more informative and professional than its neighbors, but suffers from the same soda-straw focus on favorite niche sports. Under NBC, U.S. coverage has gone downhill (no pun intended) over the last quarter century: not as much jingoism as Northeast Asia, but way to much flagwaving for my taste. The biggest problem I have had with NBC is that the ration of actual sports action to schmaltzy human interest features is way too low, and, like the Super Bowl, it is too much of an advertising orgy.

    I can give smaller countries’ media a pass on a certain high degree of focus on the national team, given budget limits, time zones, and the very high expense of covering the games. But as the next winter games host, Korea should do better.

    I wonder what North Korea is telling its people about an event no DPRK athletes qualified for.

  • DC Musicfreak

    Unlike the upright and clean boxing associations of other countries…… ;-)

  • bumfromkorea

    Haha… I still haven’t seen the 500m long track yet (Not my thing, really. It’s all about the short track when it comes to skating)… I’ve been too busy watching the Slopestyle snowboarding/ski. Half-pipes are kinda boring in my opinion, but these slopestyle events… holy crap.

    I have the NBC internet thing, and there are just way too many stuff to watch. On a side note, my dad is seriously rethinking his sexist views after watching the Women’s hockey game between the US and Finland.

  • DC Musicfreak
  • redwhitedude

    Tell me about it. I’ve seen Olympics in Korea and US. Korea comes across as national cheerleader but US isn’t blameless. The US it is more of an excuse to advertise.

  • JW

    Whoa, even PGH is getting into the action now, pointing fingers at the skating federation. Let’s see how many more medals Viktor Ahn has to win before the cops and prosecutors start bashing down doors and the NIS starts deploying its internet trolls!


  • wangkon936

    Revenge is a dish best served cold…

  • dlbarch

    True dat. Atlanta ’96 has to remain one of the all-time most tasteless exercises in blatant, raw commercialism. Just shameless!

    If the Olympics awarded medals in crass hucksterism, the U.S. would win gold every time.


  • wangkon936

    This got missed by people here, but the U.S. Olympic team uniform [that was designed and commissioned by Polo] was made by a company owned by Korean Americans:




  • dlbarch

    As long as they were Made in America by union labor, I got no problem with that.

    Money quote: “The Parks say they are big believers in American manufacturing and have never given serious thought to moving production to a low-cost country overseas.”

    Fuckin’-A! There you have it: Korean immigrants more patriotic than most of corporate America’s Nth generation WASPs. Take THAT, Jack Welch, you outsourcing cocksucker!

    Now, as for that sweater design…well, that’s a different story!


  • wangkon936

    Yeah, well not everyone’s gonna pay $598 for a cardigan.

  • dlbarch

    To which I can only say, thank GAWD the Parks own that factory and not you.

    Besides, whatya wanna bet that almost all of that $598 price is mark-up, and not cost of production?

    On a separate note, I once went into a wine-related business with a very nice but typical Stanford MBA dick who also happened to be one of those graduated-first-in-the-country high school students in Korea who received the highest score on the goshi test that year. The guy was whip-ass smart, but whenever a decision had to be made on production, the guy’s mantra was “We can outsource that.”

    We have since parted ways, and both of our separate businesses are doing fine. His margins, however, are slightly higher.


  • wangkon936

    Well… according to Ms. Park, “One sweater takes more than 12 hours [to make].”

    Let’s do the math on the variable labor cost:

    - $25/hour (union rate): $300

    - $20/hour (high CA labor): $240

    - $15/hour (medium CA labor): $180

    - $10/hour (low CA labor): $120

    - $5/hour (Haiti or Bangladesh): $60

    So, assuming $598 price:

    - Union rate would be 50.2% of unit’s price

    - High California labor 40.1%

    - Medium California labor 30.1%

    - Low California labor 20.1%

    - Competent third world craftmanship rate 10.0%

    So, assuming material costs of 20%, capex of 20% and SG&A of 20% (all quite reasonable estimates), you have the following profits for each:

    - Union rate = -10.2%

    - High CA rate = -0.1%

    - Medium CA rate = 9.9%

    - Low CA rate = 19.9%

    - Third world rate = 30%

    So, I would guess that the Parks are using medium to low CA labor rates between $15-10/hour in order to stay a viable CA business.

  • wangkon936

    I’m gonna guess that this article right here:


    Will probably give you an aneurysm.