hosuni

By Soojin Kim, Off to ( _ ) Alone.

 

While searching the official Olympic website (https://www.olympic.org/), I saw Hodori the Tiger, the mascot of the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. According to the description, Hodori has a female counterpart named Hosuni. While Hodori is still cherished today, Hosuni has all but vanished in our collective memories.

I asked a few of my friends if they knew about Hosuni, and they all couldn’t recall a Hosuni but definitely remembered Hodori. Then I asked them another question, if they had ever seen the 1988 Olympic mascot wearing a female dresses. Then they all replied with a “yes.” They thought Hodori was a non-gendered character that represented both characteristic of male and female. It made me feel awkward.

From 1968 to 2018, there have been 25 mascots are created for the Olympics. Among them, Calgary (1988), Lillehammer (1944), Athens (2004), and Turin (2006), all present male and female mascots and both mascots are identified on the official website. However, Hosuni, the other mascot of 1988 Olympic in Seoul, is not. We can only find a short sentence about her in the description for Hodori: “Although less well known, there is a female version of the mascot named Hosuni.”

I researched news articles about the 1988 Olympic in Seoul, and I find Hosuni was actually used alongside Hodori during that time. Although, it is hard to tell which one is Hodori or Hosuni except when she wears a traditional Korean costume called a Hanbok. Both look exactly same but just different sizes. Photos of the 1988 Seoul Olympics show the two tigers shaking their hands during the Olympic tournament. One is smaller than the other one; the smaller being Hosuni. We also can find her these days at Seoul Olympic Museum. The statue of Hosuni stands in front of entrance with Hodori to welcome visitors. Despite her individuality, many people don’t differentiate between Hodori and Hosuni.

We can compare this disregard of a female mascot to the reality of women’s role during that era: the scarification of women. We are told in Korean culture that women should support their husbands at all costs. When you watch Korean historical period dramas, the husband is always revered as high and lofty as the heavens. In fact you often hear the woman berated for their insolence against
their “heavnly” husbands.  This misogynist mentality has eased significantly in recent years, yet we still can find the tracks of the past and the hidden persecution of women in society today. Women are always less recognized than their male counterparts just like Hosuni.

Did you know Hodori and Hosuni had a son?
According to Dong-Ah newspaper on the 29th of May 1999, after the Olympic Games, Hodori and Hosuni moved to Mt. In-wang and gave a birth to their only son Wangbomi, the mascot of Seoul city from 1998 to 2008 until he was replaced by Haechi.

The character Hosuni worked as a ‘hidden’ Olympic mascot for the Seoul Olympics.  However, her achievements and career had to take a back seat to her more traditional role as wife and mother. While her great husband Hodori and son Wangbomi left their names in Korean history, she was relegated to obscurity. Some say supporting your husband and children is the natural duty for women, but it is too sad to just call it “natural” and leave it at that.

Why wasn’t Hosuni given eye lashes on her eyes or some distinctive characteristic? If she had, at least people could separate Hodori and Hosuni. Why didn’t we try to find her name? Why did we make Hosuni vanish?

Now, another Olympic event will start in Republic of Korea in 2018, and we have created another mascot, Soohorang the White Tiger. Some articles say this new mascot might recall the fame of Hodori in 1988. Regardless, I personally want us all to commemorate Hosuni together, because our past official mascot was not only one tiger but two.

Whether they are male or female is not what matters; the most important thing is to acknowledge one’s existence.

Please recognize and commemorate Hosuni the Tiger.

 

fin.

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