[FOUNTAIN]The beat goes on

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[FOUNTAIN]The beat goes on

The 2002 World Cup is running toward closure while creating many topics of dinner conversation. Korea's continuous upsets, which by Sunday had sent home three soccer heavyweights -- Portugal, Italy and Spain, and another good team in Poland -- are drawing much attention around the world. Mystical theories are circulating, which are being used to explain the Korean team's good "fortune" and other teams' "misfortune." Let me introduce three theories here.

First, some folklorists, Korean classic musicians and Koreanology scholars, such as Choi Joon-sik, a professor at Ewha Womans University, support a "rhythm theory."

Those who subscribe to this theory say that Korea's traditional use of 3-beat time in its music is fundamentally different from Japan's 2-beat time or Western countries' 4-beat time. Those rhythms are something that are deeply embedded in everyday life and culture, so the theory goes. Thus, Western soccer players, who are not accustomed to the odd beat, are confused at the irregularity that exists in the movements of Korean players and the cheering of soccer fans.

The Korean team has been taught soccer based on a unique rhythm that looks as if it is based on the traditional 3-beat time, but masked as a Western 4-beat time, thanks to the Dutch coach, Guus Hiddink, who likes to disrupt the flow of Western teams' play.

"Dae-Han-Min-Guk," or "Republic of Korea" an oft-heard rallying cry at this World Cup, sounds like a 4-beat word, but the first syllable is stretched long and hard, thus making it sound like a 3-beat word. The clapping that goes with the chant, five quick claps, with a short pause between the second and third claps, and another shorter pause between the third and fourth claps, is an odd rhythm that permeates insecurity in Westerners, who are more used to even, four-beat rhythms. The clapping is based on a rhythm that Koreans know from birth.

An "earth god fury theory" is championed by Cho Yong-heon, a professor at the Graduate School of Oriental Studies at Wonkwang University. Mr. Cho says that France was eliminated without scoring a goal because the French people disparaged Korean customs, particularly the Korean tradition of eating dogs. The French team thus was punished by Korean earth gods, according to Mr. Cho.

Third, a "fortune theory" is supported by astrologers who argue that Korea's gi, or energy, is strong these days. Astrologers say that the fortunes of the places and the times of the games Korea has played have been on the Korean team's side.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer.

by Kim Seok-hwan

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