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South Korea has crazy sports parents, too

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Lest you think an overemphasis on sports and developing your toddler into a future pro is an American phenomenon, check out what’s being going on in South Korea since the world ascendancy of skater Kim Yu-Na, the first from that nation to win Olympic figure skating gold. It apparently looks a lot like what happened there after Pak Se-Ri because the first South Korean to win the LPGA U.S. Women’s Open, in 1998, and after Park Tae-whan became the first South Korean to win the Olympic swimming gold, at Beijing in 2008.

From JoongAng Daily, in a story titled, “A life of sacrifice for ‘Kim Yu-Na kids’ and parents:

After skating star Kim Yu-na’s glorious win at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, figure skating fever seized the nation, particularly among young children who look up to Kim – and, more importantly, parents hoping to raise the “next Kim Yu-na.”

The adults watching their kids learn to skate at Lotte World Ice Rink in Jamsil-dong, southern Seoul, one weekday afternoon late last month testified to the latter phenomenon.

“The topic of conversation these days among mothers who have girls my daughter’s age is whether she skates or not. It seems that mothers whose kids haven’t yet started to learn how to skate feel alienated,” said Shon Hye-eun, 33, whose 7-year-old daughter was out on the rink.

In fact, the kids started coming “about two years ago when Kim began to stand out at international skating events, and it reached a climax during the Vancouver Olympics,” said Yeo Seung-hee, director at the National Skating Association of Sport for All, who also serves as a figure skating instructor at the Lotte World facility.

Currently, some 80 children are enrolled in skating classes at Lotte World, more than double the number of students a year ago, Yeo said.

The resident experts in the article point out the newfound obsession in terms of Korean culture. But I’m not so sure it’s uniquely Korean. Especially when they get to the part about parents being inspired by fathers who hardball-trained their kids.

“The phenomenon is a complex product of the tendency for Koreans to get on bandwagons easily when something or someone receives much outside recognition – for example, athletes who win international competitions – and Korean parents’ overzealous enthusiasm for educating their children,” said Chung Hee-joon, a professor in the department of sports and leisure at Dong-A University.

After Pak’s success, scores of Korean parents signed their children up for golf lessons, giving birth to an entire generation of Korean golfers known as “the Pak Se-ri kids,” including Shin Ji-yai, now one of the top female golfers in the world. Shin’s father is also known for his energetic support for his daughter.

Similarly, “Park Tae-hwan kids” recently packed local swimming pools after that 20-year-old swimmer clinched the gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Maybe the issue isn’t culture, but something else. If this expert is correct, you can’t become a culture of obsessed sports parents until you reach a certain level of prosperity.

“What is noteworthy is that the phenomenon triggered by Pak Se-ri became formalized in the late 1990s when Korea reached a certain level of success in terms of economic development,” Chung said.

Written by rkcookjr

April 6, 2010 at 11:24 pm

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