Go to contents

[Editorial] Advancing Beyond Olympic Cheers

Posted August. 25, 2008 08:29,   


The national baseball team won all nine games in winning the Olympic title, defeating the United States, Cuba and Japan in the process. Commenting on the feat, the Japanese media said Korea had what Japan lacked: a hunger for winning and a never-yielding spirit. Korea had set as its goals at least 10 gold medals and a top-10 finish in the medal standings. The country exceeded expectations by taking 13 golds and finishing seventh, its best performance since the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Above all, Korea`s two golds in swimming and baseball opened a new horizon for domestic sports.

The Olympic torch is out now. This afternoon, a national parade in Seoul will honor all 350 Korean athletes who represented Korea in the Beijing Olympics. The latest competition was a joy not only for the athletes, but also for Koreans who cheered for them.

Despite the Sichuan earthquake, the Tibet crisis and terrorist threats, the Beijing Olympics demonstrated Chinese power to the world. Thirty years after it first opened itself to the world, China successfully hosted the global sports festival and demonstrated its world leadership. The opening ceremony could be seen as the beginning of the Middle Kingdom`s resurrected glory. Similarly, the closing ceremony yesterday showed the promise China has as a member of the global community.

China also topped the medal standings for the first time, ahead of the United States. The resurrection of Chinese power will not stop there. A New York Times columnist said China surprised the world in sports this time, but could surprise in many other areas including the arts, science, education and business; the world should get used to it. Global Insight, an American institute providing financial and economic analyses, warned that China will exceed the United States in world goods production with 17 percent of the global total next year, ahead of America`s 16 percent. So which country will be engulfed first by the Chinese wave? Korea.

The Korean Peninsula constitutes the tip of the Asian continent and the beginning of the ocean. Koreans should mobilize everything to cope with China`s rising power. Korea`s alliance with the United States is the foundation. We should consolidate our traditional alliance with Washington while pursuing a comprehensive partnership with Beijing. Today, the day after the Olympics ended, Chinese President Hu Jintao visits Korea. His summit conveys huge meaning for the future in this respect.

Korean athletes demonstrated our national competitiveness in the Olympics. It’s the duty of the government and the whole nation to transform this competitive edge into a motivating force for national harmony and advancement. Gold-winning swimmer Park Tae-hwan attests to the legitimacy of the merit-based competitive educational system. We need this system to search for the talented in our nation. Though finishing 28th, marathoner Lee Bong-ju, 38, set out another benchmark by competing in his fourth consecutive Olympics, setting an example for an unwithering spirit for us.

Waseda University professor Yukiko Fukagawa of Japan said in a recent contribution to a Korean newspaper, “If there was a sports competition measuring economic advance since World War II, Korea would rank as one of the most promising gold medalists. Now it’s time for Korea to move over and play in the big leagues.” The professor said President Lee Myung-bak`s proposal to make green industries a future strategy for Korea in his Liberation Day address was suggesting a new sport in a new league, not a winning strategy.

Fukagawa cited several factors for national success: originality (creativity) versus copying; productivity versus a nation`s size; and national consensus versus the new rules. These factors were what Korean athletes demonstrated in the Olympics. When these competitive factors take root in every corner of our community, Korea can play in the big leagues.

The Lee administration turned six months old yesterday, marking a new start for its remaining four and a half years. The presidential office evaluated itself by saying, “Our administration prepared well for advancing quality of life despite various obstacles.” But its grade for the last semester was modest. Of course, we did not expect our national economy to jump-start in just six months, but we cannot brush away doubts over whether the administration sought to build the necessary infrastructure for rule of law, trust, national harmony and economic rebound.

Reflecting and internalizing the spirit of Korean athletes shown in the Olympics, Korea as a unified entity should improve national competitiveness and win the gold medal in advancement.