The fierce rivalry between Korea and Japan is in full view at the Olympics. Showdowns on the ice reflect a relationship between the countries that falls "somewhere between cold and frosty."
When it comes to global politics off the rink — most of the spotlight has fallen on North and South Korea. But just as the two Koreas have been making nice, South Korea and Japan have gotten chilly.
On the ice — Nao Kodaira of Japan and two-time gold medalist Lee Sang-hwa of Korea are the world's best at the 500 meter speed skate. They have finished within fractions of a second of each other for years and are constantly compared to one another. Sunday's much-watched showdown between the two was packed with extra meaning because their countries compete so fiercely, too.
"Wherever they're competing there's certainly the unresolved grievances of the colonial era [that] loom large," says Jeff Kingston, the Asia Studies chair at Tokyo's Temple University and author of Nationalism in Asia. He says Japan's brutal colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945 is never quite history for South Koreans. In sports, "Beating Japan is certainly on the minds of South Koreans, and not losing to South Korea is on the minds of the Japanese."