"Why We Cheer for Viktor Ahn: Changing Characteristics of Sporting Nationalism and Citizenship in South Korea in the Era of Neoliberal Globalization." Communication & Sport, 2019.

Type: 
Article
Author(s): 
Jinsook Kim

This article examines online discussions of the South Korean–born Russian short-track speed skater Viktor Ahn, formerly known as Ahn Hyun-soo, with a particular focus on the changing characteristics of nationalism in South Korea (hereafter Korea). Despite Korea’s long history of sporting nationalism, the unexpected public support for Ahn has inspired popular and academic discussions regarding whether this nationalism is in fact weakening. I begin by exploring explanations for Ahn’s continuing popularity in Korea and how critiques of the Korean Skating Union have spread to other aspects of Korean society. Next, I examine the representation of Ahn as a role model for the desirable cosmopolitan subject with flexible citizenship who is able to transcend national borders in the pursuit of individual success. I argue, however, that Korea’s embrace of Ahn is less an indication that nationalism has been waning than it is a reclamation of Koreanness and a manifestation of a desire for national strength articulated through the conflation of traditional ethnic and developmental nationalism with neoliberal ideology. My ultimate goal, then, is to offer a nuanced understanding of the changing characteristics of sporting nationalism and citizenship in the era of neoliberal globalization.