Seoul-born national speed skating coach for China apologizes after wife’s website calls Taiwan a country

Viktor Ahn apology
  • South Korean-born Russian short-track speed skater Viktor Ahn, 36, apologized on Weibo on Monday after the website of his wife’s skincare and cosmetics brand referred to Taiwan as a country.
  • “I had a very pleasant time as a coach in China and I appreciate all the support from speed skating fans and internet users,” Ahn, who advised China’s national short-track team for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, wrote. “My family and I firmly respect the one-China policy. I hope for people’s forgiveness.”
  • Nari, the brand that Ahn’s wife, Woo Na-ri, founded in 2017, also issued an apology and explained that they did not notice the “error” on their website, which a third-party company allegedly made.
  • “At the moment, we have asked the third party to correct the error in time and also decided to terminate the cooperation with them. Thanks for your criticism and corrections,” Nari’s statement read in part.
  • A six-time Olympic gold medalist, Ahn moved to Russia and became a citizen there in 2011 after a falling out with his South Korean team. He competed for Russia at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

South Korean-born Russian short-track speed skater Viktor Ahn issued an apology after his wife’s skincare and cosmetics brand referred to Taiwan as a country.

The 36-year-old athlete, born Ahn Hyun-soo in Seoul in 1985, faced backlash from Chinese social media users over the weekend after they discovered that the website of the brand founded by his wife, Woo Na-ri, referred to Taiwan as a country.

In his apology letter on Weibo on Monday, Ahn said the “wrong information shown” on his wife’s website for her brand Nari “has been fixed.”

Weibo apology

I had a very pleasant time as a coach in China and I appreciate all the support from speed skating fans and internet users,” Ahn continued in the letter. “My family and I firmly respect the one-China policy. I hope for people’s forgiveness.”

The issue reportedly became a trending topic on Weibo, amassing around 20 million views as of this writing. Junlebao, a Chinese dairy brand, also announced that they recently cut ties with the Russian athlete as their brand ambassador due to the controversy.

Nari apologized on Monday for “the incorrect information on our website which causes harm to Chinese users.” The brand explained that their website was built by a third-party company, and they admitted that they “did not notice the false information” until it became a hot topic online.

Apology

At the moment, we have asked the third party to correct the error in time and also decided to terminate the cooperation with them,” the statement continued. “Thanks for your criticism and corrections. Therefore, we want to once again apologize to our friends who have always been caring about and supporting us.”

Ahn is considered one of the top athletes in short-track speed skating history, with six Olympic gold medals to his name.

After a falling out with his South Korean team, Ahn reportedly moved to Russia in 2011 and became a citizen. He then competed for the Russian team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. He retired in 2020 and was tapped to coach China’s national team for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Although Ahn issued an online apology, some social media users reportedly expressed dissatisfaction with his statement and called on the athlete to make the same statement outside of Weibo.

I hope this is not another apology exclusively for Weibo users. If you truly think you are in the wrong here, please address the issue outside the Chinese internet,” a popular reply to Ahn’s Weibo post read.

Speaking to the Chinese state-run Global Times, Lü Chao, an expert on the Korean Peninsula at the Liaoning Academy of Social Sciences, said that “it is in fact a good thing for him to apologize on time after the mistake,” especially considering his role as a transnational sports ambassador. 

It would be inappropriate for people to hold on to this,” Lü added. It is a normal reaction for people to have insensitive topics like this. But we need to be calm to see the situations at the moment, instead of hurting a person who has helped the country a lot.”

Featured Image via Olympics

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