Women and Winning in Gyuangzhou

For those of you who don’t live in Asia, you may not have known or noticed that the 16th Asian Games have been running in Guangzhou for the past two weeks; the final day of the games is tomorrow.

The Asian Games are a chance for Asian countries to compete against each other and takes plenty of the glamour away from many other major world events. The games feature as many events as the Olympics, and hold plenty of prestige in the most populous continent on earth.

But, I really can’t do anything but look at the medal standings for a real idea of where the strength of Asia lies in terms of sports:

China – 412 (197 gold)

Korea – 229 (75 gold)

Japan – 214 (47 gold)

Here is a standard that any country would struggle to compete at.

Korea and China, and to a slightly lesser extent Japan, blitzed the field and took no prisoners throughout the event. All the medals did not come through sports the countries typically do well in. While China can be considered to have favourite status as they are the hosts, they also have a lot left over from a very successful Olympics a few years ago. Korea, on the other hand, really likes to show they are the best and invest a lot of money in sport. I think that money has a lot to do with it, not necessarily in terms of technology or science (because they all swim in the same water and they all lift the same weights), but the athletes in Korea and China can devote themselves totally to their sport while earning a living through it. This is a luxury that I don’t think many other Asian countries can afford.

Jang Mi Ran who won gold for lifting 311kgs!

Let me continue on with the success story of Korea at the Asian Games, because it’s Korea that I have been mostly watching, what with living in Korea.

The medal split for Korea has been, pretty much, straight down the middle in terms of a gender divide. This is exceptional news and further vindication of the important and changing role of women in Korea, and that they should no longer be banished to the kitchens and the children (yes banished is a bit harsh, but this is an attitude that prevails). Korea’s women have so far brought home 92 medals, a little less than the men, and every one of them is a national hero who should be celebrated as much as Kim Yun A. A gold medal in any event is no mean achievement and I don’t doubt that these women will receive every iota of praise they deserve; what matters is will this praise develop into the recognition that women in Korea deserve.

Lee Yeon Kyung who won gold for Korea in the 100 metre hurdles

Every day I walk into a classroom full of women who are all bright, enthusiastic, intelligent, and eager to succeed who speak exceptional English, many of whom have spent many years of their young lives living in America and Canada purely so they can have this advantage over others. I get this feeling that the women, more so than the men, have the uncertainty of their future looming over them which effects their attitude and commitment. They all find it very difficult to find a job; I have yet to have a woman student come to me and say, “I got a job”, but every week or two I get at least one male final year student come to me and say “I got a job”. I don’t know if there’s a difference academically; call me a raging cynic here, but I am beginning to see a pattern that fails to benefit the fairer sex.

Meanwhile, women act as the wonderful ambassadors for their country studying hard in universities in America, stealing the show on Asian music channels, winning as many gold medals as the men, but women seem to, as a majority, end up having to put their efforts into government jobs and hagwons teaching English and maths.

Much of this post turn rant is fuelled by my own observations and cynicism; I really feel sorry for all the people who I know work so hard only to be left wanting thanks to the false equality imposed by society.

I have so much more I could say on this but my anger might just get a little too much for me and I may dig myself more holes which I can’t get out of.

Before I end, one big massive beautiful CONGRATULATIONS to all the wonderful athletes from all over the Asia who gave 100% in Guangzhou over the past two weeks!

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