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The sins of keyboard warriors

Feb 20,2018
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Some people have made the Olympics an opportunity to be excessively vicious to athletes. After online attacks on a Canadian athlete drew media attention last week, a Korean athlete has now become a target. On Feb. 17, Seo Yi-ra finished the 1,000-meter short-track final with a bronze medal around his neck, but his social media accounts became a battlefield of insults and curses.

Towards the end of the race, Seo and a Hungarian skater got tangled and fell. Seo managed to get to his feet and come in third. However, some people took to social media to criticize him for blocking his teammate Lim Hyo-jun from passing him.

Despite these reactions from fans, the athletes felt that the race was fair. Seo said that it was good sportsmanship to do his best and skate until the end of the race. President Moon Jae-in watched the race and sent him a congratulatory message, praising him for getting back up and finishing.

It is not the first time that strong words have flooded athletes’ social media during the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. At the ladies’ 500-meter final on Feb. 13, Choi Min-jeong received a penalty and Canada’s Kim Boutin won the bronze medal. Afterwards, people sought out Boutin’s Instagram account and flooded her posts with insults in both Korean and English.

She ended up making her account private, and Canadian police and the International Olympic Committee launched an investigation to protect their athletes. At a press conference following the 1,500-meter final on Saturday, Boutin said that she did not think all Koreans were like that.

The curling team members are focused on playing hard every day, and, before entering the athletes’ village, they collect their mobile phones and give them to their coach. This is their way of not getting distracted from online chatter.

Mixed doubles coach Jang Ban-seok said, “Many people leave them encouragement, but there are also really terrible comments. An athlete could be mentally affected by them.”

Lee Ki-jeong of the mixed double team said, “Forty out of 50 comments on articles about other athletes are groundless criticisms. I hope fans could cheer for athletes without being too emotional.”

Everyone has the freedom of speech in a democratic society, but vicious comments and anger only encourages extreme division and social discord. Emotional comments by “keyboard warriors” affects the athletes.

People need to realize that their careless posts and comments can hurt others.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 19, Page 29

*The author is a national news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

YU SUNG-KUK