Sunday, June 10, 2012

Can a Korean Team Still Represent Korea with a Foreigner Playing?

If a foreign-born athlete who becomes a Korean citizen ends up representing Korea by playing for a Korean national team, is that team's inevitable victory on the playing field really a win for Korea, or a terrible loss? The theoretical question of whether a Korean team with a foreign member makes any such victory dirty and smelly has vexed Korea for years, and now the Korean Football Association believes it has the answer.

The issue was brought to a head last month when the Korean Olympic Committee rejected a bid by Brazilian footballer Eninho for special naturalization which would have allowed the K-League star to play for the national side. The KOC ruled against the application on the grounds that the player failed to demonstrate a basic understanding of the Korean language and Korean culture, although sources close to the organization said they were pleased to be able to advance his understanding of Korean culture by rejecting his application. The Ministry for Justice is now expected to exercise justice by following the KOCs recommendation.

Reacting to the result, a spokesman for the Korean Football Association - who asked not to be named - said that many conservative Korean people - of which of course he was not one - had difficultly with foreign-blooded players "having a different appearance from the general Korean public" representing Korea, even if they were Korean citizens.

Stressing that he was speaking his personal opinion rather than that of the organization he speaks for, the anonymous spokesman said that Korea was still not ready for foreign-born players donning the national colors. "It needs time to have a foreign player as a national player wearing the red shirt as a Korean representative, it needs time. It is not the right time or place, I think."

Many academics agree that it isn't racist to deny Korean citizens the opportunity to represent Korea in sporting events if the color of their skin is wrong - if it is simply an issue of the geological timing not being right. Wrongly colored, non pure-blooded Korean citizens have to overcome their ingrained racism and understand Korea's unique culture. It is generally agreed that the time will be right when there is public agreement, but naturally no-one can say when every member of the public will be in agreement over the issue and when such a referendum should therefore be held.

However, in the field of business, the ethnically pure waters are becoming muddied. The massive conglomerate Seongsan, which manufactures the blockbusting Korean Galaxy range of smartphones, quietly announced on Tuesday that its overseas (foreign) workers outnumbered domestic (pure-blooded) workers last year for the first time since its founding in 1969.

People are now asking if this means the Galaxy no longer belongs to Korea. The news led to a sharp sell-off in the KosPI - Korea's Pride Index - as investors reacted to the threat of foreign influence over the company, which many fear will inevitably make its products dirty and smelly. The Dokdo Times asked the Korean Football Association if it similarly believed that Seongsan could no longer represent Korea because of its foreign employees, but hadn't received a response at the time of publication.

But the involvement of foreigners in matters of defense issues are even more problematic. According to The Korea Times, alien invaders from the planet Gootan will arrive at Earth in November. After extensive research a recent strategic review in Korea aimed at countering the alien threat concluded that the most effective way of preventing an alien invasion would be to hire Will Smith. This has led to much soul searching among Koreans over the question of whether Korea should allow itself to be defended by a foreigner or whether it would be better to welcome our new alien overlords.

But one answer at least seems clear - the Korean Football Association has already said it does not want aliens to play for Korea, even if they become Korean citizens.

Related Links
[VOICE] Should foreign athletes get special naturalization?
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Customer "Slightly Disappointed" With New TV, Seongsan Sues
Samsung's Overseas Employees Outnumber Domestic Staff
Deutsche Bank May Face Record Fine For Selling Korean Stocks
Korea Times Says Alien Invaders From Planet Gootan Arrive November

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