Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tears in Pyeongchang

The soon-to-be-crying children are at bottom left.

While working on another post, I'd planned on posting a photo of the kids crying in Pyeongchang after it was announced that Sochi, Russia, and not Pyeongchang, had gotten the 2014 winter olympics. As usual, a quick search for another photo or two led me in another direction. The photos below came from various sources (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). One source is a video, which I'll get to in a moment. A screenshot from that video (above) shows us the gathered citizens at 8:22 in the morning on July 5. As the Joongang Ilbo tells us:
Nearly 3,000 residents of Pyeongchang gathered to watch the announcement on a giant screen, but they walked away with tears of disappointment. Celebratory concerts and festivities were cancelled.
Giant screen? Combine that with the image below and you've almost got something akin the scenes we saw during the world cup last year (and in 2002), with perhaps civic pride being mixed in with the sports and nationalism this time.

Alas, it was not to be. The little girl below was seen crying in just about every Korean newspaper and broadcast, and even overseas. What happened? Did she realize that they were going to have to go to school that day after all?

Her friend on the right looks on with concern as she continues crying; then she begins to console her.

Then she starts to cry.

Now the boy on the right is crying. And what's that girl in the background (wearing the yellow bandana) on the left doing? Is she smiling? (Yes)

She's not smiling now.

Nope, she (yellow bandana girl) is looking decidedly sad. The girl on her left looks like she's either smiling or confused.

Yellow bandana girl is standing up and wiping her eyes now. Her friend on the left looks confused, but isn't smiling.

Unlike most of the others, we can actually see yellow bandana girl shedding tears. Now her friend is starting to wipe them away.

Yellow bandana girl has removed her bandana and now she and her friend are both using them as a hankerchiefs.

Now the girl on the right has moved to the left, and finally gotten around to removing her "Yes" bandana. She looks like she's about to cry.

Actually, if you watch the video below (from which the still above is taken), she looks like she's trying to cry, but isn't having much luck; the video cuts away from her before we can see the fruits of her efforts.

What could be motivating this contagious crying? It should be pointed out that it seems the crying doesn't begin until the man on the screen finishes a speech and begins wiping his eyes with a hankerchief.

One of the most important influences can be seen in the background of the photo below. What we don't see in the rest of these photos are the dozens of photographers who are taking photos of of these children.

The screenshot above (like all of the yonhap news screenshots) were taken from a video that can be found here (it's playable in Mozilla, but you may want to open it in a new window - it resizes your browser). It really is a must-see; watch to see how people act when cameras focus on them after the loss is announced. Also, listen for the sounds of cameras as the children cry - there are lots of them).

Whoever shot that video, you'll notice, filmed shots of the same people before the announcement, going for the obvious before and after effect. I've pointed out how it spread throughout the children, following the first girl's example as dozens of cameras were pointed at them. What really stood out for me were how the adults began to cry when cameras were put in their faces. Notice that because they've covered their faces with the banners-become-hankies, few tears can be seen.

Other photos can be found here.

One might be tempted, seeing as it was just over a year ago, to remember the crying fans after Korea was eliminated from the 2006 world cup.

The funny thing was, I was there, but I didn't see any crying, just disappointment. While it's possible that those in front of city hall were of a more patriotic breed, my guess would be that there were dozens of photographers there ready to record the outcome. Again, the person who took this photo probably was standing quite close to her, so she may have been compelled to act 'correctly'.

When I saw these images, I immediately thought of something I'd been looking into for another (unfinished) post, about funerals in Korea, and how the media deals with them. Funeral rituals here, traditionally, call for crying at appropriate times, though the relationship between the media and mourners is quite different than in North America. In North America you’d likely punch a photographer who tried to take photos during a funeral or a wake, but in Korea it seems to be accepted, judging by the number of such photos that can be found. I'd had no idea how realistic the cremation scene in Park Chan-wook's "Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance" was until I saw this photo:

Back in late April, the body of a girl who'd been raped and murdered was found in Jeju-do, and this is a photo of her parents at her cremation. I can think of lots of photos like this (and I'll deal with this in more detail in another post), and as someone from a completely different cultural background, I wonder why this occurs. Perhaps the concept of Korea being a shame society, where a person must "live up to [their] obligations and the expectations others have of [them]", is helpful. A camera carries the threat of thousands, or millions of people seeing your behavior, so perhaps that motivates people to act passively, even while mourning. A helpful comment on Lost Nomad's post about the crying children said, "When I saw that photo, I was reminded of news footage from North Korea after the death of Kim Il Sung." In North Korea, everybody is watching everyone else in a way which is quite oppressive. In Korea, perhaps it's the media that serves such a role.

In this case, it's not the death of a person, but the 'death of a dream', perhaps even a national disgrace. I found this article (via the Marmot) describing presidential hopeful Chung Dong-young, amusing: "
Pyeongchang was an unknown town. Now it is on the world stage, and it fought well and fought honorably," said Chung wiping away tears.
Doesn't sound like a politician at a funeral at all, does it?

In many ways, I find the reactions of the adults more interesting (because they 'know' how to act), but there were so many photos of the children it was possible to construct how the crying spread under the weight of the cameras pointed at them. The children are interesting as well because you can see how many of them didn't necessarily understand what was expected of them. This isn't to say, of course, that everyone acted this way. Many people in the video aren't crying at all, and I'm sure the ones that the photographers zoomed in on who didn't cry ended up on the cutting room floor. There were enough, however (there always are) to make you wonder just why it happens.

Other more material reasons may have been due to property speculation in what is now worthless land. As for reasons why Pyeongchang didn't get the Olympics, James Card has long list here.

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