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Uniting Two Nations through Sports, 'Invictus' Style

Jun 04, 2012

Exactly how does rugby do more than excite a group of bulky sports fanatics at a bar? While sports like rugby have always been part of society, its role in society is oftentimes underestimated. Beyond being a mere pastime or form of entertainment, sports can be used to create bonds and heal. Think back to the extraordinary initiative of President Nelson Mandela to unite the apartheid-torn country of South Africa through the national rugby team. This actual historic event, which is depicted in the movie Invictus (2009), shows how Mandela used rugby as a way of healing the nation. Sports, even physically rough ones like rugby, have the power to transcend borders, nationalities, and torn countries. History can be made on a sports field.

On May 12 a picturesque scene reminiscent of Invictus was witnessed on the turf of Seoul National University (SNU) at the 8th SNU-University of Tokyo Rugby Exchange Exhibition. Both teams demonstrated their electrifying passion for the game of rugby and exhibited scintillating skills on the turf, leaving viewers in awe. Rapid ball movements and clashing bodies seemed like that of Mayan warriors on a battlefield. While the final score was in favor of the University of Tokyo, there was still much to celebrate at the conclusion of the game for everyone. Sung Hwan Moon (College of Social Sciences '11), a player on the SNU rugby team, revealed his thoughts on the match.

Rugby "It was a great unifying experience to welcome the number one Japanese university here to Korea. Physically we were much bigger and stronger, but speed wise they utilized ball skills and had better movements to beat us. We certainly had our chances but made mistakes at crucial moments and blew them. All in all, the Seoul-Tokyo rugby game was an incredible experience. SNU's rugby team has been around for half a century, with deeply traditional characteristics. We will train harder for the coming years to eliminate the silly mistakes we made."

After the match both teams attended a buffet dinner where the captains and coaches of each team exchanged presents. New friendships developed while conversations buzzed the room over glasses of cool soju.

The 8th SNU-University of Tokyo Rugby Exchange Exhibition represents an initiative in uniting two nations, Korea and Japan. Both SNU and the University of Tokyo have great social significance in their countries as they represent the most prestigious universities of each nation respectively. And these nations go a long way back in history, with a tumultuous relationship that is slowly becoming more amicable as the younger generations learn to accept and tolerate past differences. What may also be aiding in mending this relationship are joint cultural exchanges such as the rugby exhibition held on May 12. These events may begin to patch up past scars and create new ties between the two countries to promote peace not only in the Northeast Asia region but also in the world. As Morgan Freedman (playing Nelson Mandela) aptly put it in the movie,"Reconciliation starts here".

Written by OH Jung Eun, SNU English Editor,
Reviewed by Eli Park Sorensen, SNU Professor of Liberal Studies,
Proofread by Brett Johnson, SNU English Editor,