In the six-day competition held in Kazan, Russia, South Korea clinched seven gold, six silver and two bronze medals, as well as 26 medallions of excellence, to land in third place, trailing only China and Russia.
Indicative of the paradigm shift of Team Korea from strictly results-centered to a greater emphasis on the process of preparation for the competition and participating in the festivities, Korean competitors mingled with foreign peers at the event.
|Yang Su-min (center) of Samsung Heavy Industries who won the gold medal in the Industrial Control category stands on the podium holding the South Korean national flag during the closing ceremony of the 45th WorldSkills Competition at Kazan Arena Stadium on Tuesday evening. (Human Resources Development Service of Korea)|
Some Korean participants exchanged social media information with others outside the game and expressed satisfaction in the result, a shift from past events when the focus was solely on winning.
“I prepared for my last competition for more than five years. I am satisfied that I was able to complete the competition without regrets. The result is satisfactory given the amount of effort I’ve put in and the help I’ve received from many people,” said Seen Dong-min, 22, who competed in the Construction Metal Work category.
Seen, who works at Hyundai Heavy Industries, took home the prestigious gold medal.
“The outcome was possible because of techniques I learned from seonbae (senior colleagues) of the Construction Metal Work category, who produced good results in the past, alongside coaches who helped me until the end,” he added.
Yang Su-min in the Industrial Control category said, “I am satisfied regardless of the result because I gave it my very best.”
The 20-year-old gold medalist who works at Samsung Heavy Industries added he hoped to “be a good son” in bringing home the gold partly to make up for his past as a trouble maker.
“I had disappointed by parents a lot. But when I entered high school I wanted to be a good son by successfully landing a job, which is when I came across the WorldSkills Competition. I will return home with the good result and take care of my parents for the rest of their lives just as they have taken care of me for the past 20 years. I love you,” he said.
It had been a rocky road toward the gold medal. Yang subsisted on water during the four days of competition as he struggled to adapt to the local food, and was kept in check by Chinese, Taiwanese and European rivals.
Marking the largest contingent ever, Team Korea was represented by 52 competitors and 47 international judges who competed in 47 skills categories, including new areas of cloud computing, water technology, landscape architecture, heavy vehicle technology and industrial mechanics millwright.
Korea, a known powerhouse in the international competition, has taken first place 19 times since it first participated in the competition in 1967.
|Participants take part in the closing ceremony of the biennial WorldSkills Kazan 2019 held at Kazan Arena Stadium on Tuesday evening. (Human Resources Development Service of Korea)|
Team Korea’s leadership said Russia’s home-field advantage and China’s massive state-led investments in skills were factors that narrowly held back Korea’s attempt to bring home a 20th overall win.
The setback also shed light on the need for Korea to overhaul its strategy for future WorldSkills competitions, as Russia, China and Brazil are quickly catching up in terms of the number of medals won.
“At WorldSkills Kazan we witnessed global improvement in skills. China and Russia that had produced elite athletes are now putting maximum efforts to produce elites in skills,” said Kim Dong-man, president of Human Resources Development Services of Korea. Kim also serves as chairman of WorldSkills Korea.
“Whether South Korea will be able to show its capability as a first-tier nation amidst ‘a silent war of skills’ begins now,” Kim added.
Korean participants who won gold, silver and bronze medals will be rewarded 67.2 million won, 56 million won and 39.2 million won, respectively, by the government, as wells as becoming eligible for alternative compulsory military service for successful male competitors -- rewards on par with those given for Olympics medalists.
A total 1,354 competitors from 63 countries and regions across 56 skills participated in this year’s competition.
The 46th WorldSkills will be hosted in Shanghai, China in 2021 and the 47th competition will move to Lyon, France in 2023.
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)