Why Are the Taiwanese Angry at Korea?

      November 22, 2010 11:17

      Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Yang Shuchun reacts after being disqualified for using extra sensors in her footwear at the Guangzhou Asian Games on Wednesday. /Reuters-Newsis

      Anti-Korean sentiment ran high in Taiwan for a fifth day on Sunday following the disqualification of Taiwanese taekwondo player Yang Shuchun at the Asian Games for using extra sensors in her footwear. The ruling Wednesday came 12 seconds before her under-49 kg bout against Vietnamese opponent Vu Thi Hau, when she had a 9-0 lead.

      Various rumors spread on the Internet say Korea and China conspired to strip Taiwan of a gold medal or that Korea was behind her disqualification. Taiwanese netizens left scores of messages on the Cheong Wa Dae website on Saturday spouting profanities and disabling the site for hours.

      Emotions are running high ahead of Taiwanese regional elections on Saturday, with key candidates of the ruling Kuomintang and opposition Democratic Progressive Party are turning Yang's disqualification into a political issue. But Taiwan's President Ma Yingjeou appealed to the public on Sunday afternoon urging an "objective" approach and make sure that "innocent people" do not get hurt. Taiwan's Foreign Ministry also announced that Korea had nothing to do with Yang's disqualification.

      ◆ Innocent Bystander

      Officials and athletes at the Asian Games say there are no grounds to blame Korea for the disqualification. Yang's equipment went through a preliminary inspection 10 minutes before the game began. During that detailed scan, officials ruled that she had no sensors on her equipment other than those placed on her sole and instep to signal blows to the electronic body armor. Yang passed a second inspection by a referee at the match venue. 

      But Edward Lee, a Korean official in charge of the computerized match system, discovered the extra sensors in her footwear just before the match began and apparently told chief referee Stephen Fernandez of the Philippines. Korean taekwondo coach Lee Dong-joo said, "The extra sensors in Yang Shuchun's footwear may not have been discovered in the second inspection because it's conducted primarily on the upper body and electronic body armor."

      Taekwondo officials at the Asian Games decided that, either advertently or inadvertently, Yang had placed the extra sensors on her footwear in violation of regulations during the 10 minutes before the match. The World Taekwondo Federation in an official ruling declared Yang's disqualification legitimate.

      No Korean athlete was involved in the match, and none of the referees were Korean either. The chief official was Chinese and the head of the referee board was Singaporean. "Korea had no reason to strip Taiwan of a gold medal or to conspire with China to disqualify a Taiwanese athlete," one taekwondo official said.

      ◆ Why the Hatred?

      An official at the Asian Taekwondo Federation said there is clear evidence based on video footage from the preliminary and secondary inspections, so maybe the Taiwanese team is trying to turn it into a bigger issue to escape punishment.

      Taiwanese have raised conspiracy theories about Korea each time one of its taekwondo athletes were deemed to have been given an unfair ruling. Others say Taiwanese people are venting long-nursed resentment against Korea, which severed diplomatic ties with Taipei in 1992 after forming diplomatic relations with China. Most Koreans have forgotten the incident, but Taiwanese still remember it vividly and consider it a betrayal.

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