Dark Side of the Olympics: The 1988 Bummer Games

Boxing scandals, torched doves, doping hero. The 1988 Seoul Games were the time to shine. But they were built on dark deeds.

 

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Ending music performed by MissShadowLovely

 

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NOTES

      • Released earlier in the ceremony
      • Decided to roost on and in the Olympic flame cauldron
      • Three torch bearers lit the cauldron
      • Around 11 doves hanging around
      • A few flew away. Most got incinerated.
      • Live birds were never used again
    • The original script
      • People have been talking about how MBC was describing different nations in the Tokyo opening ceremony
    • According to one person who was involved in 1988, the script they were originally going to use at the stadium for the opening ceremony was similar until he caught it and had it fixed
    • First time in the ‘80s that the USA and USSR were both competing in Summer Olympics
      • 1980 Moscow: US and allies boycotted b/c of Afghanistan invasion
      • 1984 Los Angeles: USSR and communist countries boycotted
    • Perceived rudeness/cockiness of Americans led to anti-American sentiment
      • Which really kicked off during the L.A. 1984 Olympics (“USA! USA!” chant gained a hold then)
        • US athletes held up signs: ‘Hi , Mom! Send won.’
      • American athletes were also arrested
      • While at the same time, the Soviets were in the midst of Gorbachev’s charm offensive with Glasnost and Perestroika.
      • In the end, the USSR had better PR impact than the USA
        • Koreans cheered louder for Soviets and East Germans than for the USA
  • Greg Louganis’ concussion during preliminaries 
  • Ben Johnson and steroids
    • Won Bronze in 1984
    • Went up against Carl Lewis
    • Won Gold and set a new world record
    • Huge news in Canada
    • Canadian headline: ‘Why, Ben? Why?’
  • Boxing scandals
    • Note that the athletes themselves acted better than officials and those in control
    • Nasty T-shirts
      • NBC (US network) ordered 48 T-shirts in Itaewon (Sunflower Shop)
        • Depicted two boxers boxing on Korean flag
        • reading: Chaos Tour ‘88
        • Koreans were insulted
        • Shop owner refused order; brought it to media
        • NBC apologized at press meet
          • Olympic Information Director: ‘NBC Sports would like to apologize to the Korean people. The offensive T-shirts, designed by a group of people in one of our production areas, were not approved by NBC Sports.’
        • Just leave flags that aren’t yours alone
    • American boxer missed his bus and bout
    • Byung Jong-il vs. Aleksandar Khristov (Bulgaria)
      • Ref Keith Walker (NZ) penalized Byung two points for headbutting
      • Byung lost by decision
      • Byung’s coach (and allegedly even security guards) entered the ring; attacked Walker
      • Byung held a lone sit-in protest; didn’t leave ring for 67 minutes
      • NBC focused continuously on incident 
        • Allegedly Japanese media also highlighted incident
      • Claims that the incident was a scandal against Byung to embarrass Korea
    • Park Si-hun vs. Roy Jones
      • Jones dominated three rounds
      • Forced Park into a standing 8 count
    • Corrupt judges
      • Soviet & Hungarian Jones 60-56
      • Uruguay & Morocco Park 59-58
      • Uganda 59-59 with a plus mark for Park (gave him the gold)
    • Medal ceremony
      • Park raised Jones’ hand to the crowd to show who he thought the real winner was
      • “I thought I lost the fight,” Park said. “I might have won the gold medal thanks to the advantage of a home ring.”
    • Aftermath
      • Jones was bitter and accused the judges of corruption
      • IOC reviewed whether to remove boxing from the Olympics
  • Shitheads & Shenanigans
    • Two US swimmers stole stone mask from J.J. Mahoney’s (remember those bars?!) at Grand Hyatt, Itaewon
    • Racism
      • Rolling Stone Ragazine
        • P.J. O’Rourke called Koreans ‘pie-plate faced’, said they look identical

The Real Dark Story

  • Became 2nd Asian nation to host (after 1964 Tokyo)
  • Dark politics
    • Originally proposed by Park Chung-hee
    • Chun Doo-hwan submitted the proposal in 1981
      • Purpose was to prop up and legitimize his dictatorship
      • Protect from increasing NK threats (remember, they were quite active then)
      • Hoped it would have the effect that 1964 Tokyo had on Japan in showcasing its growth and reintegrating it with the world
        • It did actually start Hallyu
    • Korea needed to re-brand with the 1986 Asian Games and 1988 Olympics
      • (April 1981) Chun Doo-Hwan gave PM Nam Duk-woo a handwritten letter
        • “Crack down on begging and take protective measures against vagrants”
        • Used an ordinance that allowed arbitrary detention of vagrants
        • Jules Boykoff (author, Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics): ‘Olympic myth plus political opportunism equals the mistreatment of marginalized populations.’ 

 

  • Brothers Home 형제복지원
    • Internment camp (1970s-80s)
      • One of many privately-run “welfare centers” built for this
      • Buses with signs that read “Vagrants’ Transport Vehicle”
      • Police were actively “purifying” the streets for “Social Purificaton Projects”
        • Held people who were illegally rounded up
          • Children
          • Disabled
          • Homeless
          • Student protestor
    • Based in Busan–Largest one
      • Owner Park In-geun swore that they only fed, clothed, and educated the vagrants
        • Fed rotten fish and barley rice every day
        • Rarely any showers
          • Inmates infested with lice
        • Four people crammed in each bed
      • Supposed to only be kept for one year, given training, and released
    • Han Jong-sun (BBC report)
      • (1984) Visiting Seoul with his father
        • Father dropped him and siblings off at a police box while he ran some errands
        • Bus stopped by, and they were beaten and forced onto the bus
    • Set up like army camps
      • Inmates were given promotions and encouraged to use violence
      • Mutual surveillance discouraged escape attempts
      • Sounds a lot like how Japanese prison camps were run, which were guarded by Koreans
    • Used as slave labor for construction, farming, and factories
    • Tortured and raped
      • Some forced to sleep naked after been dunked with cold water
      • Rape occurred every night
    • Choi Seung-woo
      • 13 years old at the time
      • Stopped by an officer on his way home from school and searched, along with his brother
      • Found half a loaf of bread in his bag left over from school lunch
        • “Where did you steal this from?”
        • Officer beat him and even held a lighter to his genitals until he falsely confessed
      • Father tried to find his sons
        • Filed missing persons reports
        • Police didn’t do anything (of course)
      • Five years
      • Father figured out they were kidnapped by Brothers Home
        • Knocked on the door and protested
        • (1986) Sons were released
    • Rumors spreading in Busan about the atrocities 
    • (1987) More 30 inmates escaped and told what was happening
    • Forced to close
      • Park In-guen was arrested
        • 2.5 years for embezzlement
        • Died 2016
    • Report
      • 500 inmates died in 12 years
    • No one has been held accountable
      • Prosecutors later admitted that the military gov’t pressured them to not stop the investigation and demand a light sentence for Park
        • Young Moon Jae-in was part of the investigation
      • There had not been a proper investigation
    • Choi and his brother were shunned by society
      •  brother committed suicide (2009)
    • Han found his family in 2007
      • They had also been in the center
      • They were in a medical center being treated for trauma induced from Brothers Home
    • Choi and Han have been protesting in front of the National Assembly since 2012/2013
    • Busan City Gov’t started investigating (~2020)
      • Surveyed 149 inmates, including platoon leaders
      • ⅓ have disability, over half didn’t receive proper education
      • Believe there was a torture room hidden inside Park’s office
    • Nat’l Assembly passed a bill to look into allegations again (May 20, 2020)

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