Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Anti-Korean Wave Sweeps Taiwan

The Korean Wave, a popular game among South Korea’s journalists, now has a rival. The Anti-Korean Wave began sweeping Taiwan last week after Taiwanese martial artist, Yang Shu-chun, who was about to face a Vietnamese competitor in a Taekwondo competition, was found to have extra sensors in her socks. A Korean technician made the discovery, which would have resulted in her attaining higher scores, and she was immediately disqualified.

According to news reports, in the wake of the disqualification - which has been dubbed 'sockgate' - eggs were thrown at a South Korean school in Taipai on Thursday, much to the disappointment of the nearby North Korean school. In Fengyuan, the owner of an electronics store used a hammer to smash some old plasma-screen televisions which he’d been trying to sell for a year, and workers at a cosmetics store threw Korean products on the floor and stomped on them, apparently resulting in some foot irritations. Later, South Korean flags were burned outside Taiwan’s Sports Affairs Council, escalating the protests into a diplomatic incident. Korean flags, which will eventually have to be replaced, are made in China and their burning will not benefit the Korean economy.

Taiwanese hackers proceeded to successfully attack the website of the Asian Taekwondo Union, replacing the homepage with a picture of a large hand giving a raised finger to a Korean and Chinese flag. Yang's main rival in the competition was Wu Jingyu - the Chinese gold medalist from the Beijing Olympics. She is now expected to win the competition. Curiously, at first glance the hand giving the finger to the flags appears to be that of a Caucasian rather than a Taiwanese citizen, but there was no explanation of this. Taiwanese technology site ‘Techbang’ posted screen shots of the online vandalism, which almost all Taiwanese commentators described as a ‘good job’.

Operating under Seoul’s tough media restrictions, Korean newspapers were told not to report the protests last week as they escalated. However, the media ban was lifted when foreign news organizations began picking up the story.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade said that Taiwan’s government now accepts that the disqualification is not related to Korea, even if the technician who noticed the extra sensors was technically a Korean national. “The technician involved is not believed to be from Seoul, so he probably isn’t a pure-blooded Korean, or at least, he isn’t treated as an equal by most Koreans” explained the Ministry.

The Ministry is privately not too concerned by the threat by many Taiwanese Chinese to boycott Korean products. Speaking to us off the record, 58-year-old Minister Kim told us that if Taiwanese Chinese want to buy inferior Japanese and mainland Chinese products, they were only hurting themselves.

While some Taiwanese Chinese are said to be unhappy that the Korean official discovered the devices used for cheating, others were angry that he had been looking inside the woman’s socks in the first place, but this has been dismissed by the Korean government as lacking a cultural understanding of the habits of Korean men.

As diplomatic tension mounted, China, which intends to make Taiwan and South Korea future provinces under the ‘Greater China Co-Prosperity Sphere’ plan, said it was reluctant to involve itself in mediating between the two states, which are still notionally independent, even if they are increasingly falling under Greater China’s economic hegemony. Taiwanese citizens failed to burn Chinese flags, despite the disqualification benefiting Yang's Chinese rival, partly on the grounds of racial solidarity but mostly because that would have led to immediate invasion and execution.

While in recent years the Ministry of Culture in Seoul has sought to widen international participation in Korea's martial art as part of the Korean Wave, officials say that is inevitable that future controversies in the sport will lead to Korea being blamed because "Taekwondo is our territory".

Related Links
Taiwanese burn Korean flags over taekwondo
Why Are the Taiwanese Angry at Korea?
Techbang - Asian Tawkwondo Union was Hacked
Wikipedia: Anti-Korean Wave
Wikipedia: Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere

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