The winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia are barely over, but anticipation for the next ones in PyeongChang, South Korea is starting to grow among the area’s Korean-American community.
But four years is a long time away and South Korea is a long distance away, so the excitement is only just gaining momentum.
Sunny Hahn, a Korean-American activist from Flushing, said she is excited about the upcoming games. “It’s an honor, but I’m a little concerned because Russia did such a good job, even though the weather was bad,” Hahn said.
She noted that South Korea is not as grand or big as Russia, “but Koreans are very competitive, especially in speedskating and figure skating.”
Hahn said the PyeongChang area is mountainous and rural with ski resorts. “It’s not very developed but now it will be the world’s stage,” she added.
Paul Yoo, president of the Korean American Association of Queens, says he also knows the area and that there’s plenty of snow and big mountains. He is proud his country of birth will be hosting the Olympics.
Yoo estimates there are 150,000 Koreans living in Queens, many along the Northern Boulevard corridor between Flushing and Great Neck, LI.
SJ Jung, who moved here from Korea in 1986, serves as president of the MinKwon Center for Community Action in Flushing. The nonprofit group promotes education and offers legal clinics, language classes and more to immigrants. Jung foresees many of the bars and restaurants along the Northern Boulevard corridor showing the Olympics on TVs throughout the competition.
“There is a 13-hour time difference so that will make it difficult showing events live. We’ll just have to stay up late,” Jung said.
He expects South Korea to put on a good show. “They will organize well and all groups will work together as they did for the 1988 summer games in Seoul,” Jung said. “They have the experience and know-how.”
He also believes the 2018 games will be a good opportunity for others to learn about the Korean culture and it’s the “perfect opportunity to go there.”
Terence Park, another Korean-American leader from Flushing, said he would love to take his children there to see “the mother country” and is very proud that South Korea will host the Olympics. “I hope the games will uphold human dignity,” he added.
Park is still smarting from the figure skating judges’ decision to award the gold medal to Adelina Sotnikova of Russia, instead of the favored Kim Yu-na of South Korea, who came in second. “I don’t think the Russian deserved to win,” he said. “It was like a mosquito versus a butterfly.”
Park believes the judges’ scores should be revealed. “They need fairness,” he added.
Although many believed the South Korean skater was more graceful than the Russian, Sotnikova earned more points for doing an extra spin in her final performance for the judges.
Fred Fu, a Chinese American who runs a travel agency in Flushing, is not optimistic that a lot of Korean Americans will travel to PyeongChang for the next games.
“Based on the Beijing games in 2008, not too many Chinese went over,” he said. “It’s a long trip and tickets to the games are expensive, plus people are not as interested in the winter sports as they are in the summer games.”