Jang U-Shik

In order to finally catch up on our backlog of blog entries, today we want to take a quick look at the case of Korean speed skater Jang U-Shik, born January 18, 1914, perhaps better known internationally as Yushoku Cho. Japan had annexed Korea in 1910 and soon forced Koreans to change their names to align with the Japanese system. Jang took the name Yushoku Cho and this is how he was known when he represented Japan abroad.

Jang drew attention for his speed skating performances as a student at Tokyo’s Meiji University and was selected to represent Japan at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics. There, he was joint-27th in the 5000 metres and 26th in the 10,000 metres. The onset of World War II a few years later ended his competitive career.

Back in September 2018, we listed Jang as among the Olympians who could, in theory, be still alive and older than current oldest living Olympian John Lysak. We based this assertion on the fact that Japanese sources had listed him as alive and living in Tokyo during the 1980s, albeit refusing interviews. Recently, however, we have come across mention of conflicting Korean sources, which claimed that he died in Korea in 1971, based on a 1976 interview with his friend and fellow Olympian Son Gi-Jeong, the 1936 marathon champion.

It is probably safe to surmise at this point that he is deceased, but this is a case where even well-researched sources seem to disagree. Did he die in Korea in 1971 as claimed, or did he survive into the 1980s, and perhaps beyond, in Japan? Given the nationalist sentiments behind the issue, this may remain an Olympic mystery for years to come.