What comes to your mind when you hear the name Jang Jae-geun (61), an hourly wage for welfare and other improvements ? For middle-aged people who remember the 1980s, he is a Korean track and field legend who won two consecutive gold medals in the men’s 200m at the 1982 New Delhi and 1986 Seoul Asian Games. The record of 20 seconds 41 he set in the men’s 200m at the Asian Athletics Championships in Jakarta in 1985 remained a new Korean record for 33 years until Park Tae-gun advanced it by 0.01 seconds to 20 seconds 40 in June 2018. For young people who remember from the 1990s, Jang Jae-geun could be regarded as a broadcaster and an aerobics evangelist. After retiring from the 1990 Asian Games in Beijing, Jang Jae-geun contributed to the popularization of sports for everyday life through broadcasting.
Jang Jae-geun, who returned to his main job in athletics in 1998, has been working hard to develop athletics and nurture the younger generation by serving as the 2004 Athens Olympic short-distance national team coach, the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games athletics national team coach, and the 2011 Daegu World Athletics Championships Track Technical Committee. Starting in 2019, he worked as the director of the track and field team at Seoul City Hall before retiring.
And in early March, Jang Jae-geun, a former track and field athlete, was inaugurated as the head of the National Athletes Village, an organization with an annual budget of 120 billion won. With the Asian Games in Hangzhou this year and the 2024 Paris Olympics next year, the role of the head of the Athletes Village is more important than ever. On the 4th, we met Jang, who is eager to change the culture of the athletes’ village, at the office of the national athlete’s village in Jincheon, Chungcheongbuk-do.
―It has been about two months since you took office as the head of the Athletes’ Village. how was he
“I didn’t know that the head of the athletes’ village was so busy. He said that the image of village chiefs he saw during his time as a player or coach was walking around the village as if taking a walk. When I tried it myself, I was really busy. There are many events and many places to visit. And after taking office, he promised, ‘I will go directly to the selection match for each event’. Now in the midst of May, the final selection match for the Hangzhou Asian Games national team by event is underway. It’s a difficult situation to go home, but if I attend and give the players a little bit of strength, I’m going to go anywhere without hesitation. Having lived in the field all my life, being in the field is the most comfortable and I like it. The position of village chief is an administrative position for people in the field, but I am trying to do it in the administrative field as well.”
―The 1980s, when I was a player, and the MZ generation (born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s) these days must be very different. What is the most important thing for you as the mayor?
“The culture of the athletes’ village itself has changed. Even when I was living, the dormitory was crowded, but these days, it is usually a single room, and privacy protection and human rights are valued, so even the leader cannot open the door at will. You seem to be enjoying your alone time. When you have the title of national team, you have to show a different side of yourself. I do mountain training once every two weeks, and all events are unconditionally participated. For running events, run, and for non-running events, walk. It is to have time to meet and talk with the representative players of each event. There are many players who only look at their phones during mealtime, but rather than such a personal culture, we try to create an atmosphere where we can communicate with each other.”
In the past, various incidents and accidents have occurred frequently in the athletes’ village.
“It is difficult to control the players unilaterally like before. In the past, outside vehicles were strictly prohibited in the athletes’ village. Now, if players are riding, they are open until 10pm. It is a consideration that players should not drive even if they have a glass of beer and take a taxi. Personal protection is so important that it is not easy to identify incidents and accidents that occur secretly. We are trying to adapt to the times. Going out was also liberalized. However, they made it possible to apply online through the leaders. Since the athletes’ village is located in a remote area, it is not easy for the players to relieve stress, so we have prepared various facilities such as a movie theater and karaoke to enjoy their leisure time.”
―There is also the Hangzhou Asian Games in September this year and the Paris Olympics next year. preparation for this.
“Since the Asian Games are held right after taking office, I really don’t have much time. Skills and skills cannot be raised for a short period of time. In the end, there is no choice but to emphasize teamwork and mental strength. I’m trying to lead the strengthening of mental strength in the line where I don’t listen to the sound of ‘Kkondae’. As part of this, the dawn movement was revived. In fact, morning exercise doesn’t help much to improve athletic performance. Admit it. However, as a national representative, it is definitely helpful for me to settle my mind and improve teamwork. It is a miracle to win more than 10 gold medals in the Olympics when you are not born with good physical DNA for a population of less than 60 million. Talk to the players too. ‘It’s hard to find a great facility like the Jincheon National Training Center anywhere in the world. We have to reciprocate as much as we can exercise in a great facility operated with tax money from the people.” Just don’t say ‘for the motherland’. ‘Work hard for yourself, for your dreams. Players, you are the country. If we do it for you, that will help the country.” This Hangzhou tournament is important because the results of the last Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang were not so good. Since it is a prelude to the Olympics, it is necessary to perform to some extent in this competition to show the possibility of entering the top 10 in Paris next year. My term also ends after the Paris Olympics. I want to show that sports in Korea are still alive before my term ends.”
―What are the plans for future use of the Taereung Athletes’ Village?
“Last month, I went to Taereung and received a business report. According to the Cultural Heritage Act, the building should not be visible from the royal tomb. Taereung National Training Center is also a cultural heritage of Korea’s elite sports, so it is not demolished, and only three remain and must be demolished by 2027. However, the Taereung National Training Center facilities are really disappointing. It’s like my hometown, and it’s a place where the youth and sweat of many national team players permeated. This is especially true for places that have recently been built, such as a skating rink. However, it is too late to prepare alternative facilities after the Taereung Training Center is gone, so from now on, while some functions are still maintained in the Taereung Training Center, we are trying to prepare for the ‘Post Taereung’.”
―What is your relationship with the newly created Pyeongchang National Training Center?
“To put it simply, Jincheon is a big house and Pyeongchang is a small house. Although they are now bifurcated, they must eventually come together. Currently, Pyeongchang is mainly used as a training facility for winter events, but we do not want to limit ourselves to winter events. Since Pyeongchang is cool even in summer, we are trying to operate summer events so that they can train in Pyeongchang in summer. The Taebaek National Training Center is due to undergo a preliminary feasibility study next year, and the construction cost is close to 90 billion won. This winter, the preliminary estimate will rise to 100 billion won. If that happens, we expect it to proceed quickly without a preliminary hit.”
―As the first village head in track and field, you can feel a sense of responsibility and pressure at the same time.
“I am very attached to athletics because it is my roots. I really want to help, but sometimes I hate it. It is because I have lived as an athlete all my life, so I know too much about the sport. When I see approval documents related to athletics being uploaded, I sometimes think, ‘Why do I do this?’ When I am the village chief, I want to raise Korean track and field to a certain level. I feel a great sense of responsibility and pressure. So I am even more careful. I am saying a lot of bitter words to the track and field athletes and coaches, saying, ‘You have to do well so that even if I help, there will be no back story.’”토토사이트
―What do you think is a desirable Athletes’ Village award?
“In the past, the image of the athletes’ village as a closed space was great. So, we are trying to make it open to the public. There are many such orders. Before I took office, the maximum number of people allowed to visit the athletes’ village was 30 per day, but it was increased to 100. If you make a reservation, you can eat up to 100 people at the nationally famous athlete village meal. We also planned an event for 2,000 people this Children’s Day. We also prepared autograph sessions for famous players such as Ansan and Kim Jae-deok of archery. Through these various events, we are trying to make it a space where you can stop by and see as many times as you pass by, rather than a closed space only for the national team players.”
―What would you like to suggest for the development of the athletes’ village?
“It takes good coaches to develop good players. However, the treatment of national team leaders is very poor. Welfare for leaders, as well as wages, have been frozen for five years. As a result, I understand that there is a tendency to avoid national team leaders. Of course, the center of the village is the athletes. Leaders are shadow roles. However, I am worried that it is becoming too dark a shadow now. We need to improve the treatment and welfare of the leaders.”