The outbursts of anger some Taiwanese have directed at South Korea in the wake of the disqualification of Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun (楊淑君) at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, last week brought to the surface undercurrents that are certainly nothing to be proud of.
Not only was burning the South Korean flag, crushing instant noodles, hacking Web sites and throwing eggs at the Taipei Korean School misguided, these acts — with encouragement from some in the media — highlighted an underlying racism that does not put modern, democratic and pluralistic Taiwan in a favorable light. Such nationalistic bigotry, in fact, is the very poison that lies behind Beijing’s policy of isolating Taiwan and denying its people the right to a separate existence.
That some, though by no means all, Taiwanese would engage in such shameful behavior based on some subconscious hatred for another people makes the claims that Taiwan is a beacon of democracy in Asia ring hollow and, as such, it should be roundly condemned.
Yang’s mistreatment struck a nerve with many Taiwanese who otherwise tend to be apolitical and who have exhibited little or no nationalistic fervor. Whatever the trigger, to rally round the flag in time of crisis is not necessarily unhealthy, but to translate that energy spontaneously unleashed into acts of hatred against individuals, institutions or even entire countries that have nothing to do with the controversial decision is uncalled for.
Furthermore, if a country or government deserved to be the object of Taiwanese anger, it shouldn’t be South Korea, which though it is a regional economic competitor, has not actively sought to force Taiwan into a corner and certainly does not threaten it with more than 1,500 ballistic missiles.
It is understandable why some opportunistic politicians would seek to deflect anger away from China and capitalize on emotional outbursts for domestic electoral gain, which the appropriation of the Yang controversy for a rally in support of Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) in Taipei on Sunday undoubtedly was. However, for ordinary Taiwanese, the fact that the head of the World Taekwondo Federation is South Korean, or that one of the judges had Korean ancestry, should be of no consequence. The controversy itself, though unfair to Yang and a sad turn of events, is of little import in terms of its impact on the lives of Taiwanese.
Yet, the level of anger — and in some cases averred hatred — unleashed last week surpassed that reserved for a government across the Taiwan Strait that continues to deny Taiwanese their identity, that never misses an opportunity to humiliate and discriminate against Taiwanese, not to mention threaten them with an increasingly powerful military. Should not all that energy, all that pent-up anger and resentment, be directed against a government whose behavior has an undisputable and direct impact on the Taiwanese sense of identity? If Taiwanese want to continue to exist as citizens of a sovereign nation, they need to get their priorities right.
No one said that fighting for one’s nation and ideals would be easy. However, to shun one’s responsibility to the nation by failing to fully engage pithy matters of relations with China, only to seize upon the first occasion that presents itself to invidiously pick on a weaker and unsuspecting target is ignoble.