Two days before the Sochi Games began, the Internet was abuzz about an article on the ‘three beautiful ladies in Sochi,’ namely figure skating champ Kim Yuna, ski jumper Sara Takanashi, and teenage slalom queen Mikaela Shiffrin. The article was posted on Naver, Korea’s largest search portal website.
The story read, “It was startling to see that AFP(Agence France-Presse) picked the ‘three beautiful ladies’ without clear standards.”
But in fact, in an article titled 'Ladies first in Sochi’s black sea bubble,' AFP described Kim as a ‘headline-maker’ and offered a detailed explanation of Kim Yuna, Sara Takanashi, and Mikaela Shiffrin.
Also, AFP wrote that ‘Kim is bidding to become the third woman to win back-to-back Olympic figure skating titles and the first since Germany’s Katarina Witt,' not mentioning words that depict her beauty.
Competent sports figures have merely become ‘beautiful ladies’ because of, perhaps, ‘intentional’ mistranslation. Words like ‘beauty,’ ‘undiscovered appeal,’ and ‘sexy’ capture readers’ attention, reflecting how people prioritize appearance over actual competence in Korea.
Speed skater queen Lee Sanghwa was no exception. The press has released articles titled ‘Lee Sanghwa, as beautiful as her gold medal’ and ‘Lee’s Attractive thighs‘ after she won her second consecutive gold medal. Last month, Lee’s photo shoots shed new light on a men’s magazine.
In Korea, it seems that nearly all the world-class sports figures have been portrayed as ‘beautiful stars.’ Although putting emphasis on female body shape or appearance is nothing new, it is reasonable enough to lament that the media is leading the commercialization of sex.