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[Opinion] Jang Mi-ran and Mi-ran

Posted August. 18, 2008 23:32,   


“Pachunhwang (破天荒)!” The Korean network MBC used this caption when Jang Mi-ran, 25, won the gold medal by breaking the world record in women’s weightlifting in the Beijing Olympics. The Chinese proverb referring to breaking the chaos before the creation of the world is used when one achieves something nobody else has. Jang’s spirit and record were surprising enough for MBC to use the expression.

Jang is often described as the “female Hercules” or the “world’s strongest woman.” It is, however, a mistake to think weightlifting simply requires power. Right after her victory, Jang said, “The comparative analysis by the Korea Institute of Sports Science was a great help. There is a big difference between knowing and not knowing a bad habit.” She was unnatural in lifting the barbell until she won the 2006 world championship. After analyzing her muscle activities through the electromyogram (EMG), the institute found out that an imbalance in her left and right leg muscles was the cause. Without this finding, Pachunhwang in Beijing would have never happened.

There was something disturbing here. It was disturbing how Ahn Hyo-jak, an MBC commentator and executive director of the Korea Weightlifting Federation, referred to her in the broadcast. At first, he said “Ms. Jang” but used “Mi-ran” in the end, which is used in private and informal. Of course, it is not uncommon for coaches to use an athlete`s first name, but this is not polite in Korea. Ahn should have been more careful about calling her by her first name given the Korean public’s respect and support for her. Although Sa Jae-hyouk, 23, the gold medalist in men’s weightlifting, calls her “brother,” this is probably just out of fun.

Korean newspapers use a person`s name without “Mr.” or “Ms.” for entertainers and athletes. That is because a newspaper is a print medium and because readers find it more realistic. In official cases, however, it should be different. It is understandable that close ties between athletes and coaches and between older and younger athletes matter in sports, but hopefully, a higher level of culture is needed to befit the advanced sports culture that produced an athlete like Jang.

Editorial Writer Kim Chang-hyeok (chang@donga.com)