Anti-China sentiment over the Olympics becomes a political issue

Civic groups are holding a protest near the Chinese Embassy in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Anti-China sentiment sparked by controversial decisions at the 2022 Beijing Olympics is turning into a political issue, prompting presidential candidates to jump on the latest bandwagon to woo voters.

On Monday, Korean speed skaters Hwang Dae-heon and Lee June-seo were disqualified in separate groups for the men’s 1,000 meters semi-finals held at Capital Indoor Stadium in China.

While coming first and second in their respective group races, both athletes were penalized and made way for two Chinese skaters, as China eventually won gold and silver in the final of the 1000 meters.

Immediately after the race, presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea quickly spoke out against the arbitration.

“I am very disappointed and frustrated with the skewed judgment in short track speed skating racing,” Lee wrote via his Facebook on Tuesday.

In a separate post, Lee also voiced support for the Korea Olympic and Sports Committee’s decision to appeal the referees’ decisions to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

Yoon Suk-yeol, the rival candidate for the main opposition People Power Party, also said he “deeply sympathized” with the anger and loss that Korean athletes would feel.

“I’m worried about young Koreans who are very disappointed and questioning what fairness is, given the incident at the Olympics,” Yoon said on Tuesday, acknowledging the strongest anti-sentiment prevalent among the 20 and 30 years.

“But the Olympic spirit and sportsmanship of our athletes is of great value, and I hope they can do their best until the end.”

Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People’s Party, a distant third in the presidential race, also posted a complaint on his Facebook on Tuesday.

“China should immediately reverse the ‘dirty’ judgment and return the gold medal to South Korea,” Ahn wrote.

Ahn said the South Korean skaters were deprived of the gold medal due to biased officiating in short track speed skating.

Korean speed skater Hwang Dae-heon edged out two Chinese rivals and a Turkish in the men’s 1,000 meters semi-finals held Monday at Capital Indoor Stadium in China. (Yonhap)

Amid growing anti-China sentiment, political pundits say the foreign policy leanings of presidential candidates could affect their support ratings.

Lee of the ruling Liberal Party appears to have a friendlier stance toward China than his conservative rival Yoon. Yoon, on the other hand, has taken a position favoring the United States over China. And the two main candidates had criticized each other for their different positions.

Yoon’s conservative bloc would claim that Lee and the ruling bloc have a “pro-China” approach, while Lee’s campaign would call Yoon’s diplomatic stance “populist.”

Lee has emphasized “balance” and “practicality” in his diplomatic policy pledges, in the country’s relations with neighboring countries and alliances – giving almost equal importance to the United States and China. China.

Aware of the widespread desires for regime change, Lee points out that his administration would be different from the current administration of Moon Jae-in.

On defense and China, Lee argues that Moon’s “three no’s” policy is the right direction for economic cooperation with China.

Moon’s ‘three no’ policies include pledging the country will not deploy additional high-altitude terminal area defense batteries for national defense, integrate into the regional state-led missile defense system United States, nor will it participate in trilateral military cooperation with the United States and Japan.

The government’s decision to deploy the first THAAD anti-missile system led to a diplomatic clash between Seoul and Beijing in 2017, putting a serious blow to trade between the two countries.

Yoon, on the other hand, objected to the Moon administration’s inclination toward China and North Korea. He stressed the importance of building a strong bond with the United States and gave only strategic messages to maintain good relations with China.

He also openly supported the idea of ​​deploying additional THAAD systems for national defense.

In a poll by Hankook Research and South Korean online newspaper SisaIn published in June last year, China was the country least favored by South Korean audiences, scoring lower than Japan and China. North Korea.

By Jo Herim ([email protected])

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