- The Washington Times - Monday, March 30, 2009

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) - All of South Korea seemed to be celebrating figure skater Kim Yu-na’s historic weekend win at the world championships, with her victory at the top of newscasts and newspapers carrying photos of “Queen Yu-na” on their front pages Monday.

Kim, 18, is already a star in her native South Korea, with a slew of endorsements and TV commercials for everything from cosmetics and milk to air conditioners and laundry detergent.

Her performance at the World Figure Skating Championships in Los Angeles on Saturday night brought the world to attention as well, with her commanding, skillful and graceful free skate to “Sheherezade” bringing the audience to its feet.

“The whole world falls for her,” the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper declared.

Nearly every newspaper and many online news portals featured large photos of Kim _ wrapped in the South Korean flag or wiping away tears during her country’s anthem _ on their front pages. News of Kim’s win got top billing on broadcasts over North Korea’s plans to launch a rocket.

One sports newspaper devoted seven pages to Kim, producing a detailed chart explaining the scoring system and outlining Kim’s longtime rivalry with defending world champion Mao Asada of Japan, who finished fourth at worlds.

Corporations including Hyundai Motor Co. and Kookmin Bank took out large newspaper ads congratulating the university student on her win.

Even President Lee Myung-bak joined in the congratulations, telling Kim in a phone conversation after the championships that he had watched her compete.

“You gave many people hope at this difficult time,” he told Kim, according to the presidential Blue House.

With South Korea in an economic slump, her victory just days after the national baseball team lost the final of the World Baseball Classic to Japan was a welcome opportunity for celebration.

“Kim provided pride and courage to people from all walks of life who have been disheartened at the economic slump,” the Dong-a Ilbo newspaper said in an editorial.

All weekend, South Koreans were glued to television sets and computers _ at home, at restaurants, at skating rinks and at other public venues across the nation _ to watch Sunday’s free skate. Subway riders could be seen studying charts dissecting Kim’s jumps and signature spins.

In Hwasung, south of Seoul, some 200 people gathered at the skating rink where Kim trains, when at home, to watch the competition on a giant TV screen. Kim now trains mostly in Canada.

The broadcast Sunday on SBS television drew 31.5 percent of viewers, beating other programs by two other major broadcasters, according to AGB Nielsen Media Research in Seoul.

“Kim Yu-na was more beautiful today than any other time I have seen her,” 24-year-old Seoul office worker Kim Ju-hyun gushed Sunday.

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