Korean markets slow as Olympics 'queen' Kim Yuna spins to gold
As Olympics 'golden queen' Kim Yuna won gold for herself and unalloyed joy for Koreans, financial markets slowed and Kim's own webpage crashed from too many viewers.
Financial markets slowed and almost stopped here as Kim Yuna, ‚Äúthe Golden Queen‚ÄĚ in Korea‚Äôs media, was running through a flawless free-skating performance, winning a gold medal for herself and unalloyed joy for Koreans.
‚ÄúEverybody was in front of office televisions watching her,‚ÄĚ says businessman Kim Yong-jin. ‚ÄúPeople came back early from lunch. Nobody was interested in the stock or bond markets. There were almost no transactions, nobody was looking at prices.‚ÄĚ
Those not looking at TVs were most likely glued to their computers. Daum, a major Internet portal here, reported 440,000 people logged in at the same time to catch her in motion via the Web, according to Yonhap, the South Korean news agency.
That figure was well above the 340,000 who logged in during her short program on Wednesday (Tuesday night in Vancouver). Moreover, said Yonhap, Kim‚Äôs home page crashed from too many simultaneous hits.
As Ms. Kim twirled madly on Friday afternoon (Thursday night in Vancouver), then came to a sharp stop, a smile on her face, Koreans everywhere burst into what seemed like a nationwide roar of applause.
Ms. Asada was behind, having placed second to Kim in the short program, but the gold was by no means certain. Kim‚Äôs aggregate score of 228.56 was a world record ‚Äď one that Asada still had a chance of besting.
But a couple of minor missteps ‚Äď falters, not falls ‚Äď in Asada‚Äôs routine guaranteed Kim the gold, while Asada seemed happy to take silver with 205.50 points.
After Asada‚Äôs score was announced, office workers returned to their desks, missing out on the emotional favorite, Joannie Rochette of Canada. Ms. Rochette, skating beautifully enough for bronze with 202.64 points, managed a smile through tears shed in mourning for her mother, who died of a heart attack four days earlier (The Monitor spoke with Mrs. Rochette in January: Read article).
For Korea, one of the major contenders in Vancouver with six golds, mostly in speed-skating, the Yuna moment was all about national pride.
‚ÄúPeople were like, 'wow, wow,' every time she jumped,‚ÄĚ says office worker Park Han-jin. ‚ÄúWe were really holding our breath.‚ÄĚ
As soon as Yuna had accepted the gold, the medal draped around her neck, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak caught the national mood, sending a message congratulating her for ‚Äúpassion and strong spirit‚ÄĚ ‚Äď all cause, he said, for ‚Äúgreat jubilation for the people.‚ÄĚ
Mr. Park credits Korea‚Äôs overall drive as an economic powerhouse with bringing about success at the games. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not easy for Korea,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôve done a great job. A lot of money was invested on training and facilities, a lot of hopes and vision were at stake.‚ÄĚ
He sees Korea‚Äôs rise as a formidable Olympic competitor as paralleling the country‚Äôs economic rise. ‚ÄúA few years ago, we never thought we‚Äôd be winning all these gold medals. Now Korea has achieved a lot. It definitely gives people some joy.‚ÄĚ
Still, Park managed a few sporting words for Asada ‚Äď the Japanese skater who would have killed Korea's joy.
‚ÄúPeople were saying, ‚ÄėThat‚Äôs too bad,‚Äô when she seemed to make a mistake,‚ÄĚ he says.
Nor do he, and many others, see why Japan, with more than twice the population and an intensely competitive global economy, has not done better at the Games. South Korea has won a total of 10 medals at the Games, half of them gold. Japan has won three medals.
‚ÄúWhat‚Äôs really strange, something we don‚Äôt understand,‚ÄĚ he says, ‚Äúis why no Japanese has yet won a gold medal.‚ÄĚ