Thursday, November 18, 2010

Head-Scratching Over Korean Abbreviations at Asian Games

South Korea is represented at the Asian Games in Guangzhou with the awkward abbreviation R.O.Korea instead of the usual Korea or KOR. South Korea's official name at international sporting events is Korea, which is registered with the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia, just like USA for the U.S. and CHN for China.

Chinese officials apparently to have opted for that abbreviation because North Korea uses the abbreviation DPR Korea. South Korea's official name on the international stage including the UN is the Republic of Korea, which is abbreviated ROK.

"All of the paperwork we received prior to the games used Korea," said an official at the Korean Olympic Committee. "But we found out at the opening ceremony that everything was stenciled R.O.Korea. It was our mistake for not detecting this earlier."
In the photo on the left, Korean athletes follow a banner saying In the photo on the left, Korean athletes follow a banner saying "R.O.Korea" during the opening ceremony of the Guangzhou Asian Games last Friday, while the photo on the right shows an attendant holding a plaque saying "Korea" at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
The KOC apparently requested a correction on Monday. "We protested and received word that Korea will be used at the closing ceremony," said Paik Sung-il of the committee. Bang Kwang-il, a former vice secretary general in charge of international affairs at the committee, said, "A country's name and flag demand the greatest attention. They should have made certain from the planning stage that only the name Korea (KOR) would be used while any change should have been made prior to the opening ceremony."

South Korea has insisted on the name Korea (KOR) at international sports events because of its symbolic significance in light of the peninsula's division. The KOC was certified back in 1947 as the only international Olympic organization on the Korean Peninsula, and South Korea used KOR ever since its first official participation in the global sporting event at the 1948 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz and the Summer Olympics in London.

South Korean sports officials said IOC representative Chang Ki-young and other officials at the time strove very hard to retain the country name KOR to prepare for the participation of a reunified Korea in the future, and it is hard to understand how incumbent KOC President Park Yong-sung, who once served on the IOC board, overlooked this point.

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