Loughborough University
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Global sport, nationalism and national identity construction: the case of naturalised Chinese table tennis players in South Korea

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posted on 2018-05-08, 11:50 authored by Myung-Sun Lee
The purpose of this research is to analyse the process of South Korean nationalism and national identity construction through studying Chinese table tennis players that have become naturalised citizens of South Korea. Based on an Eliasian theoretical and methodological prospective, this research employs three different methods of analysis. First, it employs archival analysis in the historical context chapter to determine the origins of table tennis and its spread to Northeast Asia, the political and societal role of table tennis in China and South Korea, and the appearance of the first naturalised player in South Korea. Second, this study employs newspaper text analysis to investigate newspaper reports of the South Korean and Chinese table tennis matches from the 1988 Seoul Olympics Games to the 2012 Games in London. This section first examines the flow of Korean nationalism through the table tennis matches between Korea and China, and then explores how the newspaper reports expressed nationalism in regard to the Korean players and naturalised players. Third, this study employs an interview method to gather data from 17 interviewees who have been associated directly or indirectly associated with the Chinese naturalised table tennis players in order to further examine the process of the formation of South Korean national identity. The first analysis regarding historical findings identifies that table tennis has evolved precisely alongside Elias s sportisation theory. In South Korea and China, table tennis has played the role of a national sport. Especially in South Korea, table tennis was a nationalistic sport that opposed anti-colonialism and anti-communism. It was in table tennis that the first naturalised athlete in the history of South Korean sport was selected for the Olympics. In the second analysis, through examining news reports of the Olympic table tennis matches between China and South Korea, this research identifies that South Korean newspapers continue to generate a strong image of nationalism. Moreover, the newspaper reports do not use the same nationalistic sentiments and personal pronouns for South Korean players and naturalised players. Finally, the interview analysis investigates the formation of South Korean identity through the naturalised table tennis players in South Korea. Three national identities groups have arisen in South Korea in response to the emergence of naturalised athletes. The first group approves of globalisation and naturalisation. The second group opposes globalisation and naturalisation. The third group, which comprises the media, has no specific interest in globalisation and naturalisation, but has an identity that changes based on the interests of the media company. In other words, the evidence from the interviews carried out for this thesis shows that South Korean national identity in regard to naturalised athletes remains diversified and not unified.



  • Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences


© Myungsun Lee

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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