Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ichiro Hirobumi?

Well, that's the headline the Chosun Ilbo used after Ichiro Suzuki went 0-for-3 against Korean pitcher Bong Jung-keun in Korea's 4-1 victory yesterday. (HT to Kushibo) The name refers to Ito Hirobumi, the Resident-General of Korea prior to Japan's occupation who was assassinated in 1909 when he was hit with three bullets from An Jung-geun. Bong "hit" Ichiro three times as well yesterday, as the logic would go, and by calling Bong "의사" (義士, martyr), they're driving home the point about their similar actions and their same given names.

Koreans and angry Koreanish-Americans don't like Ichiro, and not simply because he's Japanese and really good. There are quotations attributed to him where he says that Koreans smell like garlic, though the original source is never given. He was also quoted as saying he'd like to beat South Korea so badly in the 2006 WBC they'd won't want to play Japan for 30 years, although that may be a misquotation as other variations also exist.

Regarding Korea yesterday, who Japan may end up playing once or twice more, he said:
“This is a difficult game. There’s a destiny,” said Japan’s leadoff hitter, Ichiro Suzuki.

“It’s like a girl you said goodbye to and then you bump into the same girl again on the street so many times, because there’s a destiny to meet again.

Ichiro is known for his colorful comments, so it's not like he reserves them for Korea. You can find pages devoted to great Ichiro quotes, but I won't link to them because they don't cite any of their sources. I will, though, use the World Baseball Classic as an excuse to post what I consider the best Ichiro quotation, on Pittsburgh's rival Cleveland:
"To tell the truth, I'm not excited to go to Cleveland, but we have to. If I ever saw myself saying I'm excited going to Cleveland, I'd punch myself in the face, because I'm lying."

It was about having to play a make-up game there, but it's still funny.


Jamie said...

Man, that is prettttty low on the part of the Choson ilbo.

I am sure Koreans will love it the next time Japan beats Korea and some major paper makes an allusion to the assassination of Empress Myeongseong...

kushibo said...

Itō Hirobumi is a largely misunderstood figure in Korean history. The real villains in Japan were certain other politicians.

Anyway, the "Ichiro Hirobumi" comment is all kinds of stupid; a couple native Koreans I talked with about this thought it was "오바" and uncalled for.

Jamie said...

This was in the NY times the other day-

* Tommy Lasorda, the tournament’s official mascot, held court during batting practice with several Japanese players. Ichiro Suzuki stopped by and spoke passable English with Lasorda, who in turn spoke passable English with Suzuki. Ichiro kept pointing to Lasorda’s circumferentially-challenged midsection and saying, “How many months?” Clearly unfamiliar with certain idioms, Lasorda answered, “I’m 82 years old.”

kushibo said...

That Tommy Lasorda anecdote was great. Thanks for the laugh.

Truth is, I'm beginning to like this trash-talking Ichiro Suzuki.

Gomushin Girl said...

We're also talking about a man who decided to stay and play for Seattle because his dog told him to. Ichiro does not share normal human attributes and thoughts, because he is beyond such a mundane state, God bless him.

kushibo said...

Brian wrote:
by calling Bong "의사" (義士, martyr)

I could be wrong, but I thought 義士 was a righteous and upstanding man, and that 擬死 was the one that meant martyr, though usually 의사 is used for martyrs.

I don't have any native Korean speakers nearby who are good at hantcha to ask.

kushibo said...

Brian wrote:
Koreans and angry Koreanish-Americans don't like Ichiro,

I'm not so sure that's true about Koreans not liking Ichiro, not even three years ago when he was trash-talking Korea during the first WBC.

Roboseyo said...

That's right, Gomushin Girl. Ichiro Suzuki is the skate of US Baseball.

John B said...

The novelist David Shields wrote a book that pretty much captures the admiration Seattlites have for him.

There is an Excerpt

JW said...

Ichiro made the statement about garlic around 1997 in response to questions posed by Korean reporters, if the link below (in korean) is to be trusted. It was meant to be a joke -- a backhanded way of complementing the pitcher (famous pitcher in Korea, now a manager, name is 선동렬) but obviously didn't go well with the Korean public.

kushibo said...

It was meant to be a joke -- a backhanded way of complementing the pitcher

"Garlic-eaters" amounts to an ethnic slur in Japan, so it's probably taken about as well as, say, watermelon patch jokes aimed at President Obama.

Brian said...

Wow, I just realized I typed "Bong hit."