[VIEWPOINT]A celebration the world admired

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[VIEWPOINT]A celebration the world admired

For foreigners living and working in Korea, June was a festive period, full of happiness and excitement. I have lived in Korea for more than seven years, sharing many moments of joy and sadness with my Korean friends, but nothing compares to the pride I felt in June, the pride of living in Korea and in Koreans.

People at multinational companies, because of the nature of their work, are always talking to colleagues from other countries. Can you imagine how busy we were receiving calls congratulating Korea on its World Cup success?

My friends overseas were green with jealousy, wishing they could be at the heart of all the enthusiasm, the drama. Whenever we spoke, on the phone or by e-mail, the first subject would always be about the Korean team's performance and the Red Devils' orderly but energetic support. They applauded Koreans for the united cheering. And the efforts of Korea in overcoming the economic crisis, differentiating it from all the rest of Asia, never went unmentioned. Conversations always ended with how lucky we were to live in Korea during this exciting World Cup and what a wonderful memory we will have to cherish when it is over.

It was an even happier time for those foreigners who are living with their families in Korea. The kids went to school; faces painted with the Tae-geuk-gi, Korean flag, wearing Red Devil T-shirts. In groups, they went to Gwanghwamun or Daehangno to root for the Korean team. Never did the parents teach their kids that Dae-han-min-guk was Korea's official name or suggest that they cheer for the Korean team, waving the Tae-geuk-gi. The kids found their own way to the festival to shout and sing "Oh, Pilseung[Victory] Korea." They went beyond nationality, ethnicity and age to celebrate Korea's victory all night, arm in arm. The kids also sent e-mails and photos to their friends and relatives back home to share their awesome experience. What great ambassadors they turned out to be for Korea!

My daughter who goes to a French school did not stop there, but went on a journey to taste dog meat with her teacher and classmates in an effort to get closer to the Korean culture. For these kids, I'm sure that no experience could be grander than this -- a global festival in which everyone enjoys a great time, no matter what the nationality, ethnicity, beliefs and culture. Korea proved that it was more than qualified to host such a festival, as the whole world witnessed during the month of June.

Our German employee, Lars Mielke, put on his red shirt and joined his Korean in-laws at their home during the Korea-Germany match. Chris Stoeckling, president of Zuellig Pharma, was lucky enough to sit in the Red Devil section to participate in the display of the "Our Dream Comes True" message. Foreigners who watched the games around City Hall joined Koreans, whom they met for the first time, to sing all night.

Indeed this World Cup was a great chance to see how much the foreigners and their families love Korea.

If the Korean national football team and Koreans were the star of the drama, the foreigners who cheered and sang were surely the best supporting actors. And they will continue their work as ambassadors of Korea for the rest of their lives.

In June 2002, we cheered for Korea with all our hearts and Korea responded with great games and a beautiful festival. I sincerely hope that this mutual love and trust are not a one-time event, but here to stay. And I also hope that the welcoming reception the Koreans showed the world during the World Cup continues forever.

It is with hope that we are accepted as a true neighbor and partner, not a stranger or just a foreigner or foreign company. And we are also hopeful not just because Korea needs foreign investors or workers, but by the passion we have for Dae-han-min-guk and its bright future.


The writer is the CEO of Allianz Life.

by Michel Campeanu

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