Bolivian sports journalist Pina Pozo interviews Korean Olympic delegate Minjei Jeon to uncover what happens behind the scenes at the Tokyo Olympic Games, a scouting report on must-watch Korean athletes, and more. Pina and Minjei met during the Global Sports Mentoring Program (GSMP), an award-winning sports diplomacy and mentorship exchange initiative run by the Center for Sport, Peace & Society in partnership with the U.S. Department of State and espnW.
Pina (0:05): Welcome to the Strong Women Better World Podcast Series: Season Two. In this short season, we'll focus on the road to Tokyo. I am Pina Pozo from Bolivia, a sports journalist, and it's my great pleasure to welcome you to this podcast about the journeys of our sisters in sport. And let me tell you, it's not an easy road. In today's episode, we travel to Asia and land in the capital city of Korea to hear from one of our sisters who works quietly with lots of influence, though, on behalf of the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee. She is returning from GSMP, our sister Minjei Jeong, has been developing the student referee programs through the Korean Sports and Olympic Committee. In addition to manage Team Korea participation for international games, such as Youth Olympic Games, [unintelligible], Asian games, et cetera. Hello, Minjei, are you ready to travel from Korea to Japan? It's not that far for you in kilometers by maybe it seems like a far away place in light of a world separated by the impact of the COVID pandemic.
Minjei (1:23): Yeah. Hello, Pena. I'm happy to be here. And yeah it's not far from here to Japan. It takes only two and a half hours from Seoul to Tokyo. But yeah, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's really difficult to travel right now, but I'm excited to be there.
Pina (1:43): We know it's not the first time for you traveling to many international games. What's your favorite part of traveling as part of the official delegation? And what are some of your duties while at the games?
Minjei (1:58): Yeah, for me, since I got the job for Korean Sport and Olympic Committee in 2012, I’ve experienced lots of international games. So most of them, I managed delegation schedule from Korea to the place which will be held and all kinds of depends on the, how, what the uniforms they're gonna wear and delivered the food or et cetera, and coordinating between the organizing committee and National Sports Federation also between the [unintelligible] and athletes and coaches. Yeah for this time I'm not sure. As you know I worked for International Games Department for a while, but after the postponement of Tokyo 2020 last year, I was assigned to planning department. So I've worked at totally different. But lucky for me, I have a chance to be part of the team offical for the Tokyo 2020. It's tough for me to work both departments, but it's my pleasure to help them to prepare. There are so many extra tasks for the preparation for this Olympic games due to the COVID-19. One of my main duties is to like manage arrival and departure from Seoul to Tokyo, because there will be almost everyday athletes and coaches who will come to the Tokyo and leave from Tokyo. So it will be busy days everyday.
Pina (3:43): What's a typical day in the life of Minjei when you are on site at any international game. And in this case, the Olympic games.
Minjei (3:54): So [unintelligible], you know, the campaigning, the games start in the morning and in the evening. So everyday we are going to have our own meeting in the morning and we have to report daily report to the Korea as well. All day, during the games, like a three weeks for me this time. I woke up early in the morning and in the end, late after midnight. So it's gonna be like working over 20 hours every day without any day off or break time.
Pina (4:32) Oh my gosh. Wow. So you're going to be super busy.
Minjei (4:37): Yeah, I think so.
Pina (4:39): Are there any Korean athletes, especially women that we should be on the lookout for?
Minjei (4:45): Uh, as you know, Korea is strong at archery, Tae Kwan-do, and women's golf. For my personal opinion, that I'm looking for. One of our artists, gymnastics female athletes. Yeo Seo-jeong. She won the gold medal at the Asian games in 2018. It happens in 32 years in Korean artists. Women's artistic gymnastics history. And we look forward to one medal at the Olympic games because our father is the Olympic silver medalist. Yeah, he got the silver medal in Atlanta in 1996. And this time he will be commentating on the television. For comments. Commented historics competition. So I'm excited to, yeah, we'll sell that to watch how it will help him.
Pina (5:45): Yeah. And that's one of my favorite parts of covering the Olympic games as a journalist telling the human interest stories of our athletes. Are there any Korean women athletes who have be who have been an inspiring person or who have had a personal story, you would like to share.
Minjei (6:05): Yeah, I would like to share the story. Like I told you as a former artist, gymnastic female athlete Yeo Seo-jeong. Also Park Inbee, yeah, she is a women's golfer. She won the gold medalist in the Rio 2016. It was our last gold medal at the Rio 2016. So all of she made all Korean people happy and in the end of the games. So we hope also she maybe gets a gold medal at the end of the Tokyo 2020. Yeah. This time as well.
Pina (6:45): Wow. I don't know about you, but I am super excited that the games are actually happening and I get to go. I wasn't sure if Tokyo and the IOC would actually goes through with everything. Is there anything you're nervous about or particularly excited about?
Minjei (703): As everyone knows that this Olympic games that will be totally different from previous one, all participants and also IOC, an organizing committee and NOC, IAF, all part of Olympic games do their best to hold a successful Olympic games this time. I'm not sure, but during the COVID-19 pandemic. All, we should be careful in keep distancing and comply they're idolized during the games. And I hope no one, no one infected COVID-19 during the games.
Pina (7:43): Yes, yes. Yeah, me too. I hope that. Okay, last question. We hear, you want to go see your sister's competitions. Will I see you at Aline’'s wrestling matches or Cami Pirelli's race? And what has the GSMP sisterhood meant to you over the years?
Minjei (8:01): Yeah. So I've heard that. Yes. Um, our GSMP sisters were competing in the Olympic games and I'm really excited to watch their games. It's been like about four years to seeing Aline. And is our sister in 2017.
Pina (8:21): And what's next, how you can use this experience to work on your GSMP action plan again, empowering the next generation of girls in Korea through sports?
Minjei (8:31): Experience, diversity. Yeah. Task working in the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee. So including this time for Tokyo 2020. It's just very special experience. There's nowhere I can experience a single like this one. So I'd like to share my experience when I come back, I always tell my folks who are female folks in younger litters. We don't need to separate male or female. It doesn't matter. Just do yeah. What we can do then everyone will be proud of us. I believe all of us can do what we believe in and when we do our best and it's going to be successful, everything keep going up with our careers. I decide to memorize it all all the time during the games so that I can share my stories to other sisters as well.
Pina (9:33): Yeah, it's going to be such an experience to share, huh? Well, Minjei you need to know that your entire GSMP family will be thinking of you. We love you and are so proud of you. Please enjoy every moment. And remember you have an army of sisters and brothers that believe in you, respect you, and want the best for you. Thanks so much for sharing your time with us. Now go and enjoy your time, seeing all of your hard work pay off on behalf of the entire Korean Olympic team.
Minjei (10:05): Thank you, Pina, for having me and thank you all the audience for listening, and let’s support every athletes and make together the Olympic games in safe.
Pina (10:17): We also like to thank our audience for tuning into this special edition of the Strong Women Better World Podcast Series. Until next time, remember when women are strong, the world is a better place for everyone.