[EDITORIALS]The excitement begins

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[EDITORIALS]The excitement begins

It was a terrific game. Indeed, we were surprised by the match played by Korea's national soccer team against the French team, and the world was startled, too. It brought the people's expectations and excitement to new heights, with the World Cup finals just days away.

This week marks the end of six years of preparation for the event, following Korea and Japan's selection to stage the tournament in May 1996. Seoul and the Korean organizing committee have been generous with investments, having spent 2 trillion won ($1.6 billion) to build 10 new soccer stadiums. The complexity and scale of the preparations for the event, which has spanned three administrations, exceeds even the planning and exercising of the 1988 Olympics Games.

What remains is to see the event through successfully so that it will go down in our history as a glorious moment. That task lies in not only playing good matches but also in the extra work that goes into the competition. Sunday's game against the French team highlighted the possibility of that success.

The level of the Korean team's play has improved to a degree that some are now hoping the team will advance to the quarterfinals -- even though that may be too much to hope for. Happily, there was little to criticize in the officiating of Sunday's game or in the spectators' behavior. And a significant part of the latter was due to the work of volunteers, from the guides in the parking lots and stadium gates to the janitors cleaning up after the match. Their participation has proved a valuable asset to the event.

But the discovery of a mistakenly issued press pass to a impostor reporter and a land mine detonator found in an airport trash can remind us of the importance of being vigilant. Security is the No. 1 priority in staging this World Cup.

That there are still tickets remaining to the Korean team's matches with just three days remaining until the opening, and the expected shortfall in the number of foreign visitors mark other errors in judgment on the organizers' part. Even so, we ought to take the event as an opportunity to reunite and heal battle wounds in our society, to put corruption, political squabbles and regional animosity behind us. We have seen the excitement that united us over the weekend in observing a well-played game. Politicians have the responsibility to carry out the upcoming local and presidential elections in that same sense of fair play we hope will be displayed in this great athletic event.

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