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Throngs at home treated to a thrilling WBC final

Though Korea lost, people enjoyed game  PLAY AUDIO

Mar 25,2009
Watching a large screen, baseball fans root for the Korean team yesterday at Jamsil Stadium in Seoul. [NEWSIS]
There were cheers and there were sighs. Fans were exuberant one moment and dejected the next.

In the end, Korea did not win the World Baseball Classic, falling 5-3 to Japan in extra innings yesterday.

But Korean fans here watching the action take place in Los Angeles still had a memorable day.

Because of the time difference with LA, the match started about quarter to 11 a.m. yesterday in Korea. But on this weekday morning police say at least 10,000 fans braved the unseasonably chilly conditions and showed up at Jamsil Stadium in southern Seoul, the city’s biggest ball park, to watch the national team on the giant screen in center field.

Those in their early 20s, apparently university students without classes to attend, made up the majority of the crowd, but there were also a plenty of middle aged fans banging their Thunderstix and screaming “Daehanminguk,” a popular chant that literally translates into the Republic of Korea.

The ESPN telecast of the game, distributed worldwide, frequently captured the action at Jamsil after key plays made by the Korean team.

After the game ended in a loss, though, some fans screamed in frustration. But Lee Ho-ra, a 24-year-old university student, said Korea played a great game, nonetheless.

“It was worth skipping my class,” Lee said. “Our players were awesome. It still hurts not to win it, though.”

Workers at Yahoo! Korea in Gangnam watch the game while having lunch together. [YONHAP]
When the game stretched well into the lunch hour, restaurants across the capital had their TV sets tuned into the match and lured eager fans with the handwritten signs reading, “Baseball is on.”

At Jogye Temple in central Seoul, Buddhist monks watched the game on a giant screen, waving the Korean flag taegeukgi. Students of Seoul-based Shinil High School, where Korea’s Bong Jung-keun and Kim Hyun-soo played ball, hundreds of students and teachers gathered in the auditorium to watch the national team.

Meanwhile, Kang Seung-kyoo, president of Korea Baseball Association and a Grand National Party lawmaker, told the team in Los Angeles yesterday that he would draft a bill that would exempt the players from the otherwise mandatory 18-month national service.

There is a precedent for Kang’s side - 11 members of the national baseball team got an exemption at the 2006 WBC, where Korea became a surprising semifinalist, even though the existing law didn’t provide the exemption.

On the roster of 28 this year, only four will be eligible for the exemption: Choo Shin-soo, Choi Jeong, Park Ki-hyuk and Lim Tae-hoon. Other players received their waiver either at the 2006 WBC or the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

However, South Korea’s Defense Ministry was adamant that merely good vibes resonating from the second-place finish won’t be enough to change the law. Spokesman Won Tae-jae said the issue “isn’t decided on winning and losing.”

Buddhist monks and followers cheer yesterday at Jogye Temple in central Seoul. [NEWSIS]
“We’ve already decided a few years ago that the exemption will apply only to the Asian Game gold medal winners and Olympic medalists,” Won said. “Public opinion alone won’t change that.”


By Yoo Jee-ho, Lee Jeong-bong [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]




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