[EDITORIALS]Soccer fever not catching

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[EDITORIALS]Soccer fever not catching

Guus Hiddink, the head coach of the Korean national soccer team, has been complaining that with less than a month remaining before the opening of the World Cup, Korea, as a co-host nation, does not come close to showing the excitement about soccer that is apparent in other countries. We believe his complaint is valid.

The World Cup is just 20 days away, and the overall mood of the public here seems far from great expectations or excitement. A big part of this is a reflection of the weakness of our soccer culture's foundation. When our national team happens to do well, the streets in Seoul and other cities grow deserted as everybody stays home glued to television screens. But the fever dies down as soon as the event ends. Korea's love for sports goes up and down. Last year, professional baseball in Korea drew 700,000 more spectators than the 2.3 million people who went to see soccer games on the peninsula.

When the soccer team isn't competing or isn't doing well, Koreans don't take a big interest. To make matters worse, we have had a string of scandals involving political corruption. As the media felt it had to turn its eye on the scandals and keep it there, so has the public. The public's attention on the World Cup is nowhere near the attention that the Olympic Games received 14 years ago, despite the World Cup's glamour and the expected benefits the tournament will bring.

With the political controversies refusing to go away, there is something in Mr. Hiddink's complaint that says much about our society. It may be that ours is a society that is quick to accomplish the tangible but has a deep-seated tendency to neglect substance. We may have gotten pretty good at landing an international event and erecting structures like the soccer stadiums. But we are still infants when it comes to merging that skill with the necessary software to create a truly cultural event. Our sights are still not set on the international standard; we remain the frog in the well.

Korea's economy has been recognized as the 13th largest in the world. Now we need to elevate the level of our awareness and practice to a par with that recognition. We will do well to look back at ourselves and heed what Mr. Hiddink's comments reflect about our society.
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