military training

In 2023, the South Koreans chose to send their athletes to military training camps in an effort to help them get back up from lagging in competition and to fortify their mentality.

This plan was the brainchild of none other than their Olympic Committee head, Lee Kee-Heung. Lee suggested this back in October, when the Asian Games drew to a close and they placed third in the overall medal standings (42 gold medals, 59 silver medals, and 89 bronze medals).

This is because South Koreans have always held sports in such high regard and saw success in the Asian and Olympic Games as markers of status and loyalty to the regime, which is why they’ve always had the best records in almost every edition.

However, in the Tokyo Olympics back in 2021, the country only won a total of six gold medals—their lowest number count since the 1984 edition.

The Military Training

According to the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee, the military training will last three days and will zero in on developing resilience and camaraderie. Around 400 athletes are anticipated to compete in total; their schedule includes rubber boat rides and early morning jogs at the camp, which is situated in the port city of Pohang in the southeast.

Their activities are scheduled for December 18-20.

Furthermore, the athletes will not be obliged to partake in any hard military training, according to the officials.

Lee’s statement

In front of the local media, Lee expressed hope that this week’s training could spur a “rebound” for the nation’s Olympic hopefuls, who are currently in a “real crisis situation,” referring to the country’s underwhelming medal totals at this year’s Asian Games and the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

SNU Professor’s take

A physical education professor at Seoul National University, Yukyoum Kim, noted that the training programs were put together not just by marine officers but also by sports management and medicine professionals, so athletes can greatly benefit from them.

Kim said that supporting the athletes in overcoming both minor and major setbacks was essential to their development as individuals and as teams. He also mentioned that, despite its violent and coercive group camps in the past, Marine Boot Camp has been quite successful in reaching its objectives.

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