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Korea wows with medals, pop music, and smartphones

When the 2012 London Summer Olympics came to a close on August 12, much talk was made of the issues that had been spotlighted at this year's games. Amid discussions about the influence of social media, the growing presence of female medalists, and record television viewership, the steady wins by South Korean athletes in unexpected events was also a common topic of interest.

The August 7 edition of major Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera featured an editorial on this theme, comparing Korea's performance as a top medal contender to its “quiet ascent” as a country that embodies the unity, pride, endurance, and sacrifice that are vital for more than Olympic success.

President Lee Myung-bak (left) congratulates Hong Myung-bo (second from right), who coached the Korean Olympic football team to their bronze medal victory at the 2012 London Olympics. Hong and other national athletes and coaches attended a special luncheon at Cheong Wa Dae on August 16 (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae). President Lee Myung-bak (left) congratulates Hong Myung-bo (second from right), who coached the Korean Olympic football team to their bronze medal victory at the 2012 London Olympics. Hong and other national athletes and coaches attended a special dinner at Cheong Wa Dae on August 16 (photo courtesy of Cheong Wa Dae).


"Quiet but hardly overlooked," is another phrase used by Corriere della Sera's Beijing correspondent Marco del Corona to describe the ways in which Korea and Koreans have distinguished themselves in recent years. Citing now well-known names such as two-time Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and newly appointed World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, as well as leading tech brand Samsung, the article examined Korea's transformation over the past half-century.

From post-war ruins to a comparatively healthy G20 economy that has withstood successive regional and international economic crises, wrote the article, Korea is on an upward trend. In the political arena, despite being one of two "brothers divided" due to the war, Korea has progressed in the past decades towards a democratic society characterized by vitality and openness, continued del Corona.

In the cultural arena, the popularity of Korean exports such as television dramas and K-pop was described as spreading for more than a decade, and the English skills of recent stars such as the Wondergirls and Rain have helped overcome former language barriers with their audiences. Hangeul was also mentioned as a writing system that has been acknowledged by many linguists for its ease and precision.

"Korea has won its gold medals, as well as its other successes, on its own strength," was the article's concluding statement. "The attention being given it by other countries is an indication of the important position it has assumed."

More foreign press coverage of Korea's society, technology, and modern development can be found in the Current Affairs section in the Government menu of Korea.net.

By Kwon Jungyun
Korea.net Staff Writer

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