Olympic fans here and in China are showing much admiration for the friendship between the two swimming athletes _ South Korea’s Park Tae-hwan and China’s Sun Yang.
The Internet is filled with photos of their friendly gestures in and outside of the Olympic pool. Net surfers in Korea have dubbed the two participants of the 2012 London Olympics Swimming competition the “SunHwan couple” taken from a combination of both their names.
“I hope we can see athletes like SunHwan in the future,” wrote a Korean twitter user named Syeonie. “I wish their friendship to last for a long time as competitors and friends.”
Chinese bloggers also approve of the two brother-like sports stars quoting interviews of them in Weibo, a popular Twitter-like micro-blogging site in China. The Chinese media also celebrates their friendship referring to it as a rare one in a field in which competition is fierce.
“I and Park can’t speak English well but there is no problem in communication,” said Sun in a media interview. “If I learn to speak Korean and Park Chinese, we will become better friends.”
Regarding the latest incident of a reversed disqualification decision in the 400-meter freestyle, Sun said he “felt good when hearing Park’s come back” and that “they will both develop into better rivals.”
In response Park congratulated Sun for winning the gold medal saying he is “happy to see an Asian player win the race.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two nations.
With economic growth and interdependence serving as arguably the main drive for improving cooperation, the two athletes’ friendship indicates how the Korea-China relationship could progress into a mature one.
Inter-governmental and -human relations between the two nations have lately been deteriorating over problems such as the alleged torturing of North Korean human activist Kim Young-hwan, a dispute over the full extent of the Great Wall, illegal fishing in the Yellow Sea and repatriation of North Korean defectors.
In order for the two nations to resolve their problems and expand areas of cooperation, mutual trust should be established before anything else. This can be followed by a search for mutual interests in which both can benefit.
There is an old Chinese phrase, “YiWeiErSi (易位而思),” which means it matters to think as if in the shoes of another and “QiuTongCunYi (求同存异),” meaning seek common ground while choosing to ignore differences.
The friendship between Park and Sun suggests this is possible for Seoul, despite lingering conflicts of interest due to Beijing’s handling of human rights issues and territorial disputes, among others, to engage in positive dialogue with China in order to work towards a better future. Towards that end, China is urged to be more proactive and responsive about acting as a responsible member of the international community, given the status, proposed in some circles, of a G2 nation along with the United States.
The starting point for Korea and China is the willingness to learn about each other and to admit the differences they have. <The Korea Times/Chung Min-uck>
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