S. Korean skater’s defiant act against China on Winter Olympics podium


Andrew Reid

Fri, 18 February 2022, 7:03 am·4-min read

South Korean speed skater Kwak Yoon-gy may have looked like he was just having a bit of fun after busting out a little dance move on the podium at the Winter Olympics, but there was a bit more to the cheeky gesture than meets the eye.

Kwak’s South Korean team finished runner-up to Canada in the men’s 5000m short track relay on Wednesday night.

For Kwak, it was an opportunity to make somewhat of a statement after an ugly controversy earlier in the short track competition, that saw South Korea launch an extraordinary complaint with the International Skating Union (ISU) and International Olympic Committee (IOC) amid claims of ‘bias’ from officials towards Chinese athletes.

South Korea was left seething over the disqualifications of short track speed-skaters Hwang Daeheon and Lee Juneseo in the semi-finals of the men’s 1000 metres – an event which Chinese skater Ren Ziwei eventually claimed gold in.

Immediately after the semi-finals, the Koreans filed a protest with the referee asking for the reason why Hwang and Lee were DQ’d. The complaint was then filed to the ISU.

South Korea argued that during the final, China’s Ren Ziwei appeared to have his hands on the leg of Liu Shaolin Sandor of Hungary, who crossed the finish line first, fell and spun into the pads.

China's Ren Ziwei won gold in the 1000m speed skating final after a controversial incident with Hungary's Liu Shaolin Sandor. Image: Getty
China’s Ren Ziwei won gold in the 1000m speed skating final after a controversial incident with Hungary’s Liu Shaolin Sandor. Image: Getty

However Liu was penalised twice and earned a yellow card, while Ren got off scot-free and was elevated to the gold medal.

A newspaper in Seoul reportedly published an article with the headline: “Just let China take all the medals”, with many viewers left fuming by the controversy.

Kwak was one of those who spoke out angrily about the incident at the time.

“Looking at the way China won the gold medal, I felt bad that my younger teammates had to watch something like that,” he said.

“I thought to myself ‘is this really what winning a gold medal is all about?’ Things all just felt very hollow.”

“If it had been any other country than China in that situation, I wondered if that team would still have been allowed to reach the final like that.”

Kwak even got some high-profile support from K-Pop sensation BTS, with frontman RM tweeting his support for the Korean skaters – prompting the boy-band’s social media account to explode with angry comments.

So when it was time to receive his medal as part of the Korean relay team in Beijing, Kwak decided to pay tribute to the BTS frontman by imitating one of the group’s iconic dances.

“Yoon Gy, I saw your good Dynamite,” RM said on Instagram afterwards.

Kwak told Korean media after the race that the dance was a tribute to RM for supporting the Korean skaters in the face of widespread anger over their claims of China favouritism.

“I’m a fan of BTS but I also felt that I wanted to repay RM however I could, for the support I received when I was having a rough time during the early stages of the Olympics,” Kwak said, according to Koreaboo.

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