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Korean gold medalist identified as 'Japanese' at Japan's Olympic Museum

Korean gold medalist Sohn Kee-chung is included in an exhibit that features Japanese Olympians at the Japan Olympic Museum, according to South Korean press reports Thursday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Korean gold medalist Sohn Kee-chung is included in an exhibit that features Japanese Olympians at the Japan Olympic Museum, according to South Korean press reports Thursday. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

June 17 (UPI) -- A Korean marathoner who won the gold medal at the 1936 Berlin Olympics is being identified as Japanese at a Japan Olympic Museum exhibit, according to South Korean press reports.

The Museum, which opened in September, includes a photograph of athlete Sohn Kee-chung. The Olympian was identified as a Japanese national who took part in the 1936 Olympic marathon in Nazi Germany, South Korean network Channel A reported Thursday.

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Sohn is part of an exhibit of historical Japanese gold medalists at the museum. Sohn ran under the Japanese flag in Berlin, but Koreans were forced to take on Japanese nationality under colonial rule.

The International Olympic Committee may not recognize Sohn, who was identified as "Son Kitei" in the Japanese exhibit, as a Japanese national. The IOC says on its website that Sohn is a Korean national hero, according to Channel A.

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Seo Kyung-duk, a professor at Sungshin Women's University, said Japanese authorities must address the issue.

Koreans lost nationhood under the Japanese, but they were still Koreans and the museum must include an accurate description for visitors, Seo said.

"It is a historical fact that Sohn bore the Japanese flag and participated on the Japanese Olympic team, but it is necessary to disclose Sohn was Korean," he said.

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Seo sent an email to the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, requesting the exhibit be corrected, South Korean network JTBC reported Thursday.

Sohn, who died in 2002 at 90, reportedly wrote to his friend after winning the gold medal in Berlin that he was "sorrowful" after winning the marathon.

Newspapers on the Korean Peninsula at the time ran photos of Sohn with the Japanese flag removed from his uniform.

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