Korean Athletes to Star on U.S. Network TV

U.S. network television is to show an hour-long documentary entitled "South Korea: Focused on Excellence" featuring the country's top athletes. The Seoul metropolitan government provided funding and filming assistance.

The Korean athletes featured in the documentary range from marathoner Sohn Kee-chung, who won the gold medal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and bowed his head in shame when he received the award as a Japanese athlete since Korea was under Japanese occupation, to figure skater Kim Yu-na, who won the gold medal at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver. Park Ji-sung of Manchester United, pro golfers Pak Se-ri, Yang Yong-eun and Shin Ji-yai, speed skater Lee Seung-hoon and baseball players Park Chan-ho, Choo Shin-soo and Kim Hyun-soo are also featured.

JPI, which produced the documentary, spent two months traveling across Korea, the U.S. and Canada to interview the athletes and hear their stories. The production team also interviewed aspiring Korean athletes as they trained on the ice, on the race track, in the baseball stadium and the indoor golfing range. The idea is to convey the hopes and dreams of budding athletes who will fill the shoes of current sports stars like Kim Yu-na, Park Ji-sung and Pak Se-ri 10 to 20 years from now.

Kim Yu-na is referred to as "the most popular sports star in Korea." The production team interviewed Kim and her Canadian coach Brian Orser to hear about the difficulties she had to overcome to reach the top.

Top: from left, marathoner Sohn Ki-jung, footballers Park Ji-sung and Lee Chung-yong, and pro golfer Pak Se-ri; Middle: pro golfers Yang Yong-eun and Shin Ji-yai, speed skater Lee Seung-hoon, and baseball player Park Chan-ho; Bottom: baseball players Choo Shin-soo and Kim Hyun-soo and figure skater Kim Yu-na Top: from left, marathoner Sohn Ki-jung, footballers Park Ji-sung and Lee Chung-yong, and pro golfer Pak Se-ri; Middle: pro golfers Yang Yong-eun and Shin Ji-yai, speed skater Lee Seung-hoon, and baseball player Park Chan-ho; Bottom: baseball players Choo Shin-soo and Kim Hyun-soo and figure skater Kim Yu-na

The man behind the documentary is Andrew Cho, a Korean American who runs a sports marketing agency in New York. "I felt both a tremendous sense of pride for the athletes who overcame great odds to reach the top and surprise the world as well as a feeling of guilt that I wasn't able to help them," Cho said. "I felt that it would be a huge loss for Korea not to showcase the success stories of these champions and promote Korea's image abroad."

The film airs in 120 cities across the U.S. between August and September on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. In Los Angeles, which has a large Korean-American community, it will air at 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 15 on ABC and in San Francisco at 3 p.m. the same day. New Yorkers can watch it later in August.

The Seoul metropolitan government not only provided funding but also guided the filming crew during their 10-day shoot in Seoul. Kim Tae-myung, head of strategy and planning at the Seoul city government, said, "We figure we could promote Seoul by featuring various parts of the city while covering the athletes' training." The city plans to air commercials promoting its tourist attractions before and during the film and says the spots should be equivalent to US$1.5 million worth of advertising effect.

englishnews@chosun.com / Aug. 05, 2010 12:03 KST