Son Kee-Chung Memorial Hall, commemorating Korea’s first sports hero
In Sports Park in Malli-dong, Jung-ju, a pin oak stands as it did 78 years ago. It was the sapling that hid the Japanese flag on the chest of Son Kee-Chung when he stood on the podium as a gold medalist. In 2012, the Son Kee-Chung Memorial Hall was opened in celebration of Son’s 100th birthday. Son started training for marathons after he entered Yangjeong High School, eventually winning the gold medal with a world record time of 2:29:19.2 on August 9, 1939, at the Berlin Olympics. Despite his great accomplishment, Son’s triumph was received coldly at home, as the Japanese police banned any celebratory event for fear that it might escalate to anti-Japanese protests, fueled by Son’s bold covering of the Japanese flag on his chest. Due to difficulties caused by the Japanese government’s constant surveillance of him after his win at the Olympics, Son later said that he wanted to return his gold medal. The site of his alma mater, where he dreamed of becoming a world-class marathoner, still retains the mixture of sorrow and joy he felt on the day his dream came true.