South Koreans fear being branded taekwondo traitors

South Korean taekwondo competitors going for gold at the London Olympics know the price of failure will be extreme. Such is Koreans' pride in their national sport that coming home without a gold medal would be tantamount to treason.
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Updated on Jul 06, 2012 01:01 PM IST
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Reuters | By HT Correspondent, Seoul

South Korean taekwondo competitors going for gold at the London Olympics know the price of failure will be extreme. Such is Koreans' pride in their national sport that coming home without a gold medal would be tantamount to treason.

After a disappointing Athens Games when they won only two golds, South Korea returned with a vengeance in Beijing with all four of their fighters becoming Olympic champions.

Kim Sei-hyeok, general manager of the national taekwondo team, told Reuters anything short of four golds in London would be a body blow to South Korea's taekwondo pride.

"Taekwondo is our national sport, it originated in Korea, so we are under pressure to get many gold medals," Kim said at the national training centre.

"It's natural for us to win gold medals, we'll be treated as traitors if we don't, that's what our media says." Taekwondo, loosely translated as "way of the fist and foot", enjoyed a surge in popularity after being exhibited as a demonstration sport at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 and quickly rose to become one of the world's most practised martial arts.

While there have been calls for the sport's place in the Olympic programme to come under review due to a complicated scoring system and complaints about a lack of action, Kim said taekwondo's global appeal made it a good fit with the Games.

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