With his winning streak likely to continue, South Korean online forums were overrun with discussions about what had driven this skating genius from his birth-country and the Korean media's sudden focus on Ahn ‘being a Korean’. Criticisms mounted on the deep-rooted clique culture that perpetuates the Korean skating world and Korean society in general.
Ahn made headlines on the international level in the 2002 Olympics with his unfortunate crash into the eight-time medalist skater Ohno. Four years later, Ahn surged back as Ohno's formidable rival by grabbing three gold medals and a bronze.
However, Ahn failed to compete in the following Olympics in 2010. The official reason given was that it was due to his knee injury, but it was an open secret to net users that Ahn had a fallout with the Korea Skating Union and was severely bullied [ko] well before the 2006 Olympics. By 2010 Ahn had been de-facto abandoned and was cast out by the union. He left his country and became a naturalized Russian in 2011.
For playing for the Russian team, Ahn has reportedly been rewarded [ko] with a much higher salary, a private tutor, coaching staff and he has also been promised a stable job after his retirement.
Too late too little
As Ahn won a bronze medal earlier this week, Korean media outlets suddenly gained interest to the unfair treatment he suffered, several years earlier. Even the President made a comment about Ahn that ‘we have to look back on whether it (referring to Ahn switching his nationality) is because of irregularities lying in the sports world, such as factionalism, favoritism and judging corruption’.
Politicians chimed in as well. The ruling Saenuri party posted an emotional photo with accompanying text [ko] on their Facebook page that read ‘sorry, but we will always support you’. Net users were not very impressed with this belated response.
Many Koreans were rather happy for this under-appreciated star's newly-found happiness and seemed unmoved, even offended by the Korean media sudden emphasis on his nationality. Here are several tweets about Ahn.
솔직히 안현수 까려면 국가가 안현수한테 전폭적인 지원을 해서 키우고 있는데 배신 때리고 러시아로 넘어간거여야 하는데, 제대로된 지원도 없고 파벌싸움에 폭행에 제대로 된 연습 환경도 마련되지 못했는데 뭐가 잘났다고 안현수를 깝니까?
— 포덕 티나플/白金猫 (@tinyapl_) February 10, 2014
If he had been given full support and provisions from the state, then you can trash-talk Ahn Hyun-soo and claim that he betrayed his country and left us for Russia. But no, that is not the case. There was no adequate support for him, instead perpetual fights between cliques, and he was brutally beaten (for not obeying the union's order) and their was not a conducive environment for practice. There is no justification for trash-talking Ahn.
안현수가 그랬단다, 제가 스케이트를 사랑하는데, 대한민국만큼 사랑하는지는 모르겠지만, 여튼 스케이트가 타고 싶었다고. 그래서 러시아에서 영원히 살거라고. 천재를 못품기는 커녕, 내팽개치는 나라. 금메달, 니가 따라 빅토르 안. 자격없다, 우리는.ㅎ
— 작은 달님 비비안 도로시 ♕ (@drysi) February 13, 2014
I was told that Ahn said that he loves skating, and he is not sure whether he loves it more than he loves his country. One thing for sure is that he wants to continue skating and that he will live in Russia forever. This shows how our country has driven geniuses out instead of embracing their talents. Viktor Ahn, you take that gold medal. We don't deserve you/the medal.
파벌을 견디다 못해 귀화한 선수인데 이래놓고 금메달 땄더니 국적은 러시아지만 심장은 대한민국 건아! 안현수! 이따위 드립 날리면 진짴ㅋㅋㅋ
— 이리 (@furymanura) February 10, 2014
(1st tweet embedded) He became a Russian citizen and even changed his name. But the media insists on calling him Ahn Hyun-soo. (2nd tweet) This player, could not take any more of the clique culture and the power-wielding, so he changed his nationality. But when he wins gold medals, some media outlets pull those ridiculous lines, like ‘His nationality may be Russia(n), but his heart beats for Korea’. LOL.
빅토르 안을 어떻게든 한국을 사랑하는 안현수로 만드려고 하는 인간들이 있다는 얘길 듣고서는 뭐.. 예상가능했다. ‘성공'이라면 국적을 어떻게든 연결해서 ‘우리'로 만들고 싶어하고. ‘실패’ 같아 보이면 ‘남'이라 부르는. 예)조선족
— Craic Dealer (@kingkenny1967) February 11, 2014
After hearing that there are groups of people who try hard to portray Viktor Ahn as ‘Ahn Hyun-soo who so loves his country, South Korea’, I wasn't that surprised. When someone achieves success, they do so desperately try to link that success to the nationality. When it seems like a failure, they try to distance from them. (i.e. against some Korean-Chinese)