I’m always talking racist this and hatred that when discussing Japanese and Korean relationships. This pretty much only comes up when we’re discussing Akiyama, and I usually don’t have much proof to show you how odd the kooky societal discord is between the two groups. But now MMATraining has the story of how a kid names Sung Hoon Choo became Yoshiro Akiyama which might give you a bit of an idea:
Sung Hoon Choo was a Korean living in Japan. For those of us residing in North America, that’s not the same as a Canadian living in the US. There is a history between Korea and Japan but let’s leave that discussion for another day. Suffice it to say Sung Hoon Choo wasn’t given a fair shot at his passion – judo – in Japan due to his roots. Eventually giving up hope in Japan, he returned to South Korea hoping the grass was greener- only to find that he was now no longer welcome in the South Korean judo system having spent his time training in Japan. Not only was the grass not greener, it was dirt.
Without any options, Sung Hoon Choo packed his bags and returned to the only other place he had called home – Japan – in 2001. This time he decided to do whatever it would take to be accepted by the Japanese system. He became a citizen of Japan and took a liking to the Japanese name Yoshiro Akiyama. Again, for those of us in North America, that would be like waking up one day and dropping the name Juan Valdez and going with Bert McTwig. Better update your Facebook page. Less than one year later, Akiyama took the gold at the Asian Games in judo. Turns out he had some talent.
You probably know the story from there … Akiyama starts kicking ass and taking names until he greases up against Sakuraba and becomes the most controversial fighter in Japan. The Koreans still love him because they feel he’s taking the fall for his heritage, and the Japanese all love watching him because they hate his guts. By the end of his run with DREAM he was ratings gold at a time where the promotion was struggling to pull decent numbers. Now the UFC has him, and when they come to Korea or Japan or wherever they decide to go, people are going to pay attention because Akiyama (or Sung Hoon Choo if you’re in Korea) is involved.