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Spirit of 2002 is alive and well in Korea

World Cup match with Togo draws huge outdoor throngs

June 13,2006

By 9:30 p.m. yesterday, 100,000 fans had already crowded into Seoul Plaza to await the 10 p.m. opening World Cup match for Korea and Togo. Game results are available on the JoongAng Daily Web site, joongangdaily.joins.com. [YONHAP]

The red-clad supporters were back to revive the legend of four years ago.
Roars of “Dae Han Min Guk” filled Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall and other sites around the nation, suggesting that late hours were no match for enthusiasm about Korea’s heroes in Germany. Cynics wondered if this year’s World Cup would be more about marketing hype than fan fervor; at least for today, they were proven dead wrong.
At the plaza, already revered in Korean lore as the center of the 2002 month-long party, about 100,000 people had thronged by 9:30 p.m. yesterday. Mothers and fathers wheeled baby carriages, middle and high-school students chattered and office workers waited impatiently for 10 p.m. The few fans not dressed in red T-shirts stood out like sore thumbs. Roads leading to the plaza were also clogged with fans.
A 25-year-old office worker said she had come to enjoy another “national festival.” A worker from Sri Lanka said he was thrilled. Examination season didn’t keep college campuses from overflowing with cheering crowds. At Sogang University, the student council prepared a big screen and lots of rice balls for the throng expected for the 10 p.m. start of the match with Togo.
The game, as will be the case for all Korea’s contests, will start too late to be covered in this newspaper the following day. Results of the match are available on the JoongAng Daily Web site, joongangdaily.joins.com.
Christian churches and Buddhist temples also got into the spirit despite some hesitation about being called “Red Devils.” At a Roman Catholic church in Jangan, Seoul, about 300 people gathered to watch the match in their red T-shirts. In Seoul’s Dongbuichon neighborhood 2,000 Christians attended a service to pray for the team’s success. At Jogye Temple and Bongeun Temple, Buddhists did the same, waiting to watch the match on large screens.
Some round-the-clock factory operations planned to pause during the contest. Hyundai Motor’s factory in Ulsan scheduled a two-hour break to allow the plant’s 10,000 shift workers on duty to watch the match.
Participants in betting pools had a little extra incentive. A 31-year-old office worker said everyone in his department had bet 10,000 won ($10) on the match. He added hastily, “It was for fun, not for the money.”
Koreans in Germany and elsewhere in the world also massed to cheer on their countrymen. In Frankfurt, Koreans rallied near the Main River beginning early yesterday morning, waiting for the 3 p.m. match. In France, about 500 Koreans flocked to a stadium in Paris, where the Korean association in that country handed out balloons, fans and South Korean national flags. About 80 ethnic Koreans adopted by French families were among the group.
In Washington. D.C., the U.S. capital, churches and colleges hosted groups of fans for the games, according to Kim Young-geun, the president of the Korean association there.
In Tokyo’s Shinokubo district, a center for Korean residents there, shop workers were red-clad and waiting, but complaints of noise forced them to retreat into their shops.
In Hong Kong, Koreans were joined by thousands of Chinese at Victoria Park, where they chanted cheers under the guidance of a cheerleading squad flown in from Seoul for the occasion.


by Han Ae-ran, Kim Soe-jung


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