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Photo: “Young-cho-hwang-obra del artista dae-chul kangal,en barcelona montjuic – panoramio,” by Gerardo nuñez licensed under CC Attribution 3.0 Unported. Hue modified from the original.

Park, Haenam, and Robert Easthope. “Nationalism and the Representation of National Sport Heroes in 1990s South Korea.” Journal of asian sociology 50, no. 3 (2021): 513-544.


This article analyses the changing representations of three South Korean sport celebrities and explores how this reflects a transition in the dominant form of nationalism in South Korea during the 1990s. Hwang Young-cho, who took gold in the marathon at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, was considered a “born” hero, and the South Korean media attributed his physical gifts, habits, and background to the excellence of the Korean ethnic nation. We consider this in relation to the concept of ethnic nationalism, which emphasizes shared lineage, language, and history. Representations of baseball player Chan Ho Park and golfer Pak Se-ri focussed on their levels of “effort.” They were presented as exemplars of the virtues required in competitive international markets. We argue that the new manner in which these two national sport heroes were represented in the 1990s reflects the movement of South Korean nationalist discourse away from ethnic nationalism and towards market nationalism.

The Illiberalism Studies Program studies the different faces of illiberal politics and thought in today’s world, taking into account the diversity of their cultural context, their intellectual genealogy, the sociology of their popular support, and their implications on the international scene.