Ice hockey without borders, Canada gives Korea an assist

29 Dec, 2017 3:37 pm

SEOUL (Reuters) – What does it mean to represent your country at the Olympics? For Brock Radunske, the question has some nuance given the towering, blond-haired Canadian will be suiting-up for South Korea at the 2018 Winter Games.

The ice hockey forward is one of 16 foreign athletes granted South Korean citizenship ahead of February’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics under changes to the country’s immigration laws that came into effect in 2011.

The changes, the Justice Ministry told Reuters, were aimed at boosting competitiveness in sectors such as sport, science and the economy. The key point was that dual citizenship was now an option for those deemed to have “outstanding ability” who could “contribute to the national interest”.

The first athlete without any Korean lineage ever to be naturalised, Radunske said it was an “honour” to be chosen for Team Korea but that being able to retain his Canadian passport had been a key factor in his decision.

“I grew up in Canada and I‘m proud to be a Canadian, and in a sense I‘m representing Canada too … when I‘m playing for Team Korea,” the 34-year-old told Reuters.

“I‘m proud to have lived in both countries, so when I‘m on the ice I‘m going to do everything I can for Team Korea.”

Under the previous immigration system, Radunske would not only have had to surrender his Canadian passport but might have been expected to do a 21-month stint in the military.

WHERE IS KOREA?

Radunske has played professional ice hockey in Korea since 2008 when he became the tallest player ever to sign for Anyang Halla. The signing was hugely popular with female fans, who fawned over his imposing 6ft 5in (1.96m) frame and good looks.

Their nickname for him appears to have got lost in translation, however, with Radunske unlikely to encourage the use of “Canadian Big Beauty” when his playing days are over.

A third-round draft pick by the Edmonton Oilers in 2002, Radunske never made it to the NHL and representing Olympic champions Canada was always out of reach.

South Korea was therefore an attractive option but becoming a citizen of one of the world’s least ethnically diverse countries was no easy task.

Radunske had to pass a battery of tests, including of his Korean language skills and knowledge of local culture and history.

His fellow Ontario native Matt Dalton also came through the notoriously difficult process and said his decision to take on citizenship had caused some confusion ‘back home’.

 




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