The Seoul Olympics of 1988 represented a hugely symbolic ‘coming out party’ for the
Koreans. Some 160 nations and over 13,000 athletes competed at what was, at that time, the biggest ever Olympics. For Koreans, it was not just the scale but the national
effort and pride that they put into achieving a successful hosting that was important. After a traumatic twentieth-century history in which colonialism, division, civil war, and authoritarian governments had all left their mark, the Olympics provided an
opportunity for the South Koreans not just to unite in one gigantic task but also to transmit the cultural essence of ‘Korean-ness’ to the outside world.