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Monday, February 19, 2018

Year of the Underdog

This is, so far, the image I'd keep from the Pyeongchang Olympics: Lee Sang-hwa and Nao Kodaira enjoying a victory lap together*. Beyond the victory of the Japanese underdog over the Korean double olympic champion, the victory of fair-play and mutual respect, timeless values in sport, even more admirable for a decade-old rivalry in uber-competitive speed-skating. 

'Even more than the joint North Korea - South Korea ice hockey team forced down a coach's throat, the genuine mutual respect between Nao Kodaira and Lee Sang-hwa in speed skating short track can help bring two people together' (20180219 -

So in the land of bballi-bballi, in times of over-speeding news cycles, I'd like to pause and enjoy olympics as they were meant to be. And I sincerely hope that Olympic Athletes from Russia will not be allowed to parade under their national flag for the closing ceremony, particularly after the latest doping scandal (in curling, of all sports!).

And don't forget your gift for the new year: the free ebook of my 2007 short story "Year Of The Dog".

Seoul Village 2018
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* no, not that obvious one (see "Closing doors at Pyeongchang's Opening Ceremony")

Friday, February 9, 2018

Closing doors at Pyeongchang's Opening Ceremony

If Olympics are always a mix of sports, culture, business, and politics, Pyeongchang definitely amped up the latter. So KIM Yuna, who a couple of weeks ago was bound to be the queen of the night, let KIM Yo-jong steal the show.

The show? For the Opening Ceremony, a giant display - literally - of Korean technology, with a few moments of awe (constellation hologram, drone swarm), too rare sparks of emotion (the maemil Arirang), and the odd comic relief (the Bermuda delegation freezing their bermudas off - a red-nosed flag bearer followed by a limping old timer). The audience was totally obliterated by the LED screens put behind every seat, which contributed to the visual animation but castrated the atmosphere. When the show was over, we discovered their existence, trapped in the final airpocalyptic fireworks smog.

We did get the photo ops (almost) everybody wanted: North and South Korean athletes holding the same flag and carrying one flame, US and North Korean leaders smiling in the same picture.

'Korea together!' (20180209 -

'BREAKING - North Korea bombing the US! Well, photobombing to start with (KIM Yong-nam, Mike Pence, KIM Yo-jong at Pyeongchang 2018 opening ceremony)' (20180210 -
That last picture probably proved costly: Mike Pence specifically demanded not to be seated as the same table as / close to the DPRK pair, to prevent the kind of photo op disasters that happened yesterday (a boon for KCNA propaganda). Was MOON Jae-in fulfilling a pledge to North Korea? He certainly strained relationships and trust with the US at the worst moment... and added another bromance between Shinzo Abe and the White House.

'Panda diplomacy, Korea style: Moon Jae-in tried everything to mate Mike Pence and Kim Yo-Jong, to no avail. VP not in the mood, left angry' (20180209 -
Over three years ago, in a 'twittering baekduology' focus on KIM Yo-jong (see 'Cherchez la femme'), I wondered if she could become "The next Dear Leader or just a Cheer Leader? Kim The Fourth or Jang The Second?" 

Yesterday, we were granted #rareglimpses (sorry James P.!) of her complex personality: all kind smiles when she let Yong-nam seat first or shook hands with Jae-in, yet cunningly confident as she relished victorious firsts on enemy ground. 

And yesterday, the South may have handed KIM Yo-jong a status of stateswoman on a silver platter.

'Lil sis Kim Yo-jong triumphant ahead of meeting ROK minister' (20180209 -
'Kim Yo-jong pretty much steals Pyeongchang 2018 the way O.J. Simpson hijacked the 1994 FIFA World Cup. North Korea propaganda claims the first gold of these winter olympics' (20180209 -

'Not much emotion, mass synchronization, huge national flags... Kim Yo-jong and Kim Yong-nam must wonder which side of the DMZ they are tonight' (20180209 - )

Seoul Village 2018
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