Disqualification, appeal, and overturning of a flag decision had been relatively unfamiliar words for the public in Korea, but not anymore, thanks to 2012 London Olympics. Such irrefutable bad calls enraged Koreans this summer.
As the original purpose of international sporting events such as the Olympics or the World Cup was to achieve world peace and to promote global interaction, the slogan of the 2012 London Olympics was “Live As One.” Its original interpretation is that people all around the world can be a harmonious one. However, it seemed to get distorted to mean that everyone should be happy even if only a part of the “one” is happy. In this situation, it is no wonder that Koreans became furious with bad calls which benefited our competitors, but we need to consider whether our attitude as sports fans is desirable.
Shin A-Lam, a Korean epee fencer, was robbed of her gold medal, according to Korean media. In her semi-final match, she only had to successfully defend for just one second, to win. However, the last official clock was slow; in that supposed second Shin defended herself three times, yet the opponent still had time for one final attack. It was so clear the judge’s mistake that Shin’s Korean coach launched an appeal, which was not accepted. Many foreign as well as domestic media denounced the controversial judgment. L’Agence France- Presse (AFP) chose this decision as one of the five most controversial refereeing calls in Olympic history.
Korean netizens were so infuriated that they personally attacked the judge, Barbara Csar. They found out her email address and phone number, sending insulting messages and posting derogatory comments on her Facebook wall. Despite the evident fault of the judge along with other fencing officials, a distinct line between public and private matters should be drawn, as the saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner” indicates. Formal protests based on objective supporting data, such as the Korean Olympic Committee (KOC) requesting a joint silver medal, are necommended rather than personal emotional reaction. Moreover, the emotionally aggressive response might damage our national image.
While denouncing such unfair rulings, Koreans are inclined to pretend that they are always on the losing side of bad calls. Actually, a Korean was involved in one of the other cases the AFP chose as a top five worst injustice; the 1988 Seoul Olympics light middleweight boxing final between Park Si Hun and Roy Jones Jr, who was ranked No.1 in the world at that time. Although Jones completely dominated Park throughout the match, the referees decided in Park’s favor, which surprised Park as well as Jones. Korea also used the home field advantage in the quarter final against Spain in the 2002 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup Korea and Japan. Two goals by Spain were invalidated by doubtful judgments, possibly due to a Korean being vice president of FIFA and the home crowd. Many foreign media condemned the incidents. Koreans and Korean press, however, did not admit it, but said we should obey the umpire’s decision, ignoring the foreign opponents’ resentment.
Unsuitable calls in sports can occur from time to time. Actually, the criteria for being considered “unsuitable” can differ. In the 2012 London Olympics, it seemed more unfair than other Olympics, at least for Korean sports fans, because of some controversial judgments. Koreans could be upset about them and argue fiercely, whether on or offline. In the matter of personal attacks against the judge, however, Koreans need to calm down. Rather than such direct aggressive reactions, oppositions by formal organizations are recommendable. By this, we can protect our national image and soft power as well. More fundamentally, we should stick to an objective viewpoint, even toward improper judgments in favor of Korea. As we can learn from bad calls of 2012, compared to 1988 and 2002 ones, our selfish ignorance can be a boomerang that attacks us in the end. some foreigners said Korean sports fans should respect the judge’s decision despite its being controversial; exactly what Koreans said in 1988 and 2002. Thus, Koreans need to be rational and objective when confronting unfair judgments in sports officiating.