Electric socks spark Taiwan and South Korea dispute

Headline on front page of an English language newspaper in Taiwan: “Man arrested for throwing eggs at Korean school” – followed by an “only in Taiwan” lead: “A 53-year-old man was arrested yesterday for throwing eggs at the Korean Elementary School in Taipei as he stood outside the school throwing eggs through the school gate.”

He said he was so angry at South Korea over the disqualification of a Taiwanese Taekwondo athlete last week at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China that he had to act. Nothing against South Koreans, just venting, he said.
In fact, nationwide anger has been directed at South Korea because two of the main figures in the recent Taekwondo ”he said / she said” incident were Korean or of Korean descent. Chien told reporters that his egg-throwing – a time-honoured protest tradition in Taiwan – was not directed at South Korean school children and that he never thought of hurting them. 
He also threw eggs at the Taipei Korean School over the weekend, according to sources.
Racism is not just a European or an American construct. In Asia, as well, racism is embedded in various national prejudices and rears its ugly head from time to time. This week the virus has infected Taiwan. And it’s going viral.
Sometimes these nationalistic hissy fits happen during regional baseball games, or soccer matches, or, as it did this past week, at a controversial taekwondo event at the Asian Games held in Guangzhou, China.
A female Taiwanese Taekwondo athelete was disqualified from her match due to some poorly-managed refereeing, in which a half-Korean Filipino referee and a shadowy South Korean games official were allegedly in cahoots with the Korean head of the Asian Taekwondo Union.

All hell broke loose.
Taiwanese athlete Shu-chun Yang was booted out for what were alleged to be illegal foot sensors in the opening bout of the women’s under-49kg division.
Her alleged faux-pas? Using extra sensors on her electronic socks to increase her chances of scoring. She says she is innocent. The referees said she was guilty.
What ensued in the  aftermath was pure post-match pandemonium, with Taiwan calling South Korea rather unsavoury names, and both governments weighing in with their version of the fighting mat events.

Communist China, wouldn’t you know it, had an ace up its sleeve as well, if conspiracy theorists on both  sides of the Taiwan Strait are to be believed.

Welcome to the Asian black hole of competing nationalism.

So how does this tempest in a Taekwondo ring impact trade relations between Taiwan and South Korea, maker of the popular Samsung Galaxy tablet?  Well, for the time being, sales in Taiwan of the Galaxy tab have not been affected by growing Taiwanese anger over the controversial disqualification Su-chun Yang.
But things are a bit frosty between the two countries, and the so-called “bad call” could lead to trade issues in the electronics industry, according to reports.
“We have not felt any impact from anti-Korea sentiment on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab so far because the supply of the product is limited,” the managing director of marketing for a major Taiwanese mobile business group told reporters. “We are not worrying about the situation. But we will decide if it is necessary to make any adjustment to product inventory based on the sales of the second allotment next week.”
Everyone here hopes that the simmering Taekwondo case will not boil over but will end soon under the negotiating of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).

Samsung Electronics, for its part, hopes all this will fade away soon, hopefully to another galaxy far far away.

But the mood in Taiwan is one of deep anger at South Korea, and while the geo-diplomatic issues between North Korea and South Korea are putting the rest of the world – including Japan – on edge, Taiwan could care less.

All eyes right now are on Seoul, and the mood is good there. People here in Taiwan are angry.

“I will never eat Korean food again, or watch any more Korean movies or TV shows,” Jonny Chen, an IT graduate student at Chung Cheng University in southern Taiwan told TechEye. “I will never set foot in that country, and even if they apologise for cheating Taiwan out of a gold medal at the Asian Games, I will never forgive them.”

He speaks for legions here. South Korea and Taiwan, while neighbours in Asia and both enjoying colourful and energetic democracies in action, have often battled on sporting turf from baseball to football and Taekwondo. There is a ”history” between these two sporting nations, and both countries sport long memories over perceived fouls.

Another student at Chung Cheng University said he didn’t ”hate” South Korea for the way its officials acted during the recent Taekwondo match, but she said she would never buy electronics made in Korea again.

“I’m angry,” Ivy Tseng, 25, said. “If they treat us this way, I will buy my computers and phones from Japan or America. South Korea is in the doghouse, now, as far as I am concerned. Samsung is a dirty word in this country now. Maybe later, when all this blows over, I will forgive them, but for now, I dislike South Korea immensely. Don’t mess with Taiwan!”

While most Taiwanese are a friendly and warm people, anger like this does spring up from time to time.

A restaurant in central Taiwan now sports a handmade sign in the window, in Mandarin: “Long live our Taiwanese taekwondo champs; no Koreans welcome inside!”