Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Seoul National University, a league of their own

Korea's most prestigious university, "Seoul Dae", has always been a laughing stock as far as sports are concerned : Seoul National University never leaves the bottom of national rankings in collective sports, and a ten goal deficit in soccer or a twenty run loss in baseball are more than commonplace.

Chosun Ilbo Senior Editor OH Tae-jin nailed an hilarious tribute* to SNU's baseball team, but keeping one's seriousness is not that easy when you consider the bold facts : in 2004, SNU stopped a 199-game losing streak only to start a 56-game losing streak the next match, and personal statistics against this team have not been taken into account in the league standings since 1992.

Now this joke of a team just hired a prestigious coach : LEE Gwang-hwan won the KBO title (Korean pro baseball league) in 1994. Imagine Jose Mourinho taking over the perennial underdog of Portuguese university soccer.

To tell the truth, I find that a bit unfair and disrespectful to essential traditions. Seoul Dae may produce the Korean elite of tomorrow in a campus roughly the size of a small "gu" (Samsung founder's former golf club in Gwanaksan), it may boast an art museum designed by Rem Koolhaas, it still used to be the symbol of meritocracy : a lot of poor students, served a food so miserable you sometimes felt on the wrong side of the DMZ, and not much funding for sports.

But the times they are a-changing. Meritocracy became hagwonocracy nationwide, and SNU starts caring for its image as a sports powerhouse.

Well. "Powerhouse" at least in the meaning "equipped with electricity".

Seoul Village 2010

* "
서울대 야구감독 이광환" / "LEE Gwang-hwan Seoul National University baseball coach" (오태진 20100529 - Chosun Ilbo)

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