Runner Sohn Kee-chung (1912–2002) was a top athlete in the mid-1930s who won the marathon in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Sohn was a Korean, yet he competed for Japan because Korea was a Japanese colony. To his contemporaries and in post-colonial Korea, Sohn became an admirable symbol of anti-colonial resistance, yet, at the turn of the 21st century anxieties have surfaced following indications that his place in national collective memory may not be stable. I identify that meaningful moment and argue that the challenge to Sohn’s iconic image sparked a major commemorative wave to memorialize him and confirm his status as a national hero through concrete representations. I demonstrate how the related sites create through Sohn a sports heritage that celebrates the Korean nation and the values of reunification and peace, yet at the same time actually anchors South Korea’s legitimacy vis-à-vie the rival sister to the north.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
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- Sohn Kee-chung
- South Korea
- collective memory
- sports heritage
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cultural Studies