Constructing the marathon nation: US perspectives on korean national identity from the 1930s to the 1950s

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Abstract

From the 1930s through the 1950s, Americans read Korean national identity through the prism of marathons. At the 1936 Olympics, Koreans running as conscripts for Japan won gold and bronze medals in the marathon, sparking outbreaks of Korean nationalism and creating a global image of the marathon as Korea's national sport. As Korea emerged from the Second World War divided into US and Soviet protectorates, Koreans from American-occupied South Korea starred in the Boston Marathon, reinforcing the image of Korea as the 'marathon nation'. Koreans won the 1947 and 1950 Boston Marathons as American audiences cheered and interpreted Korean endurance prowess as a product of US imperial benevolence. In 1951, however, during the Korean War, a different interpretation emerged. Americans barred Koreans from the Boston Marathon after reports that a group of Korean soldiers had trained for the marathon rather than serving in combat with their US allies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1379-1403
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of the History of Sport
Volume27
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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