[VIEWPOINT]Have fun, but mind our mannersThe World Cup is finally almost at hand. There are only 32 days left before the biggest sports event in the world kicks off. After we were selected to co-host the World Cup with Japan, in a relatively short time we have prepared diligently and made ourselves ready by building the necessary state-of-the-art stadiums that will surprise the world. Many foreigners were astonished to see us achieve so much in such a short time despite the obstacles we faced. This has been a perfect example of the underlying strength of Koreans once they have committed themselves to a specific cause.
The next thing we have to do is manage the event well and pray for our national team to do well. As one person said, "Managing a nation is just as important as building a nation."
The Olympic games and the World Cup are not just sports events, they are important events that test a country's ability to manage itself. The 1988 Seoul Olympic Games were very successful. Some 159 countries took part in the games, and Korea placed fourth in gold medals and tied for fifth overall.
We surprised the world by being ranked in the top five while our management of the games was perfect. The event in itself was a perfect harmony of a strong performance and management by the host country.
What worries me is whether this perfect harmony can be repeated again. Whether or not our national team can advance beyond the round-robin phase of the tournament is the big question. The Olympics is a multiple sports event while the World Cup is a single event. Every player is playing under the same conditions, playing the same game. The barriers in the World Cup are much higher and there are more of them. In the World Cup tournament, there is no room for error. The intensity of the games is tremendous, resembling that of a flame.
Every animal that lives on the earth uses its legs, but only a few, like humans, have developed the use of their arms. To run and kick are the most fundamental biological behaviors of a human being. Therein lie the dynamics of soccer, which outweigh most other games played with a ball.
For us who have successfully hosted the Olympics, there is no reason why we shouldn't be successful in doing the same with the World Cup. In terms of national strength, our gross national product in 1988 was $4,302 per person while our foreign reserves were about $12.3 billion. We exported $60 billion of goods that year and imported products worth $48.7 billion.
Fourteen years later, our per capita gross domestic product is $9,628; we have foreign reserves of $101 billion (based on November 2001 figures). We export $139 billion worth of goods per year and import $126 billion worth. Since we hosted the Olympics, we have seen our country becoming stronger and stronger. Based on that national power and the willingness of our players, I, like all of our people, am praying that the national team will make it past the first round. Nevertheless, luck is also a major part of any sports event, and there might be a result different from what we had hoped.
I am also concerned about what will happen if our national team falls short of its goal and the enthusiasm for the Cup vanishes with it, interfering with the management of the games. We should not forget that the World Cup is a celebration of the whole world. The host of the party is our country. If we forget about our guests by focusing too much on the results our national team posts, we might lose an opportunity to advertise our country. In a game there are many moments to enjoy, especially if we win; but even if the chances of winning seem to fade away, we should look for other joys of the game. Trying to win is fine, as long as we are ready to accept the results and do not forget our duties as a host nation.
That is especially true because this year's World Cup is being co-hosted with Japan. There are many neighbors that are not exactly the best friends. Looking back at our history with Japan, there is always a negative sentiment towards our neighbor.
Nevertheless, as co-hosts of the upcoming World Cup, for mutual prosperity and development, we should be able to congratulate the other side if only one country makes it to the sweet sixteen.
The writer is the president of the Myongji Academy.
by You Young-koo