Fans cry, 'Don't get on the bus, Guus!'

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Fans cry, 'Don't get on the bus, Guus!'

The most admired folk hero on the peninsula is not a movie star with dashing good looks or a singer in flashy costumes. It's a Dutchman, Guus Hiddink, the coach of the Korean national soccer team.

The team's fans, those Red Devils who bathe the country in crimson red with those "Be the Reds" T-shirts, don masks of Hiddink and wave the national flag of the Netherlands with "I Love Hiddink" added. There is even a fan site on the Web dedicated to Mr. Hiddink; most of the members are in their 20s, but plenty of kids and older people can be counted as Hiddink lovers.

On the bulletin board of the Hiddink fan club site, any kind of discussion is possible. At least 50 fan letters are sent to Mr. Hiddink per day, though it's questionable whether he gets to them. Some Hiddink enthusiasts talk about making the coach a candidate for president in December's election. One Internet user, with the online ID "lovehiddink," gave a couple of reasons why Mr. Hiddink should be Korea's next resident of the Blue House: He's got the language skills to strengthen Korea's diplomatic capacity, even though he can't speak the language of the land he'd be ruling (that's no problem, lovehiddink says, because Korea has so many good translators); and Mr. Hiddink would provide a breath of fresh political air after the recent plague of scandals. One flaw in the argument, though, is that Mr. Hiddink is not a citizen, and therefore ineligible to be president.

Naturally, the next step for Hiddink fans would be to promote Mr. Hiddink's naturalization. Whether the coach himself is interested in the matter is unknown, but the fans don't seem to care. Another Internet user, with an ID of "theassociationforgivingthe-rightkoreannametohiddink," came up with a three-syllable Korean name that sounds similar to Mr. Hiddink's real one: Hee Dong-gu, with the corresponding Chinese characters meaning "the qualifying coach." Internet users then talked about making Mr. Hiddink the progenitor of a new clan of Koreans, the Hees.

More down-to-earth ideas include naming a street near the Sangam World Cup Stadium for Mr. Hiddink. Also, the Ministry of Justice last week discussed the possibility of giving the coach an honorary certificate of residence, which would make it easier for him to enter and exit the country. After news of the idea hit cyberspace, nimble Netizens created an image of such an honorary certificate, which read "endowed by the Korean Nation," and shared it online.

The most distressing fact for the Hiddink acolytes is that the coach is supposed to leave the post and Korea after the World Cup. An Internet community, Freechal, has an online petition up that asks Mr. Hiddink to remain as the coach of the national team. One fan, who identified himself as "wecanneverletyougo," offered three ways to stop Mr. Hiddink from leaving: naturalizing his girlfriend, Elizabeth, as a Korean citizen, destroying every soccer stadium outside of Korea and winning the next World Cup in Germany to regain Mr. Hiddink's affection.

Though all this could end up as much ado about nothing, one thing is clear -- all that red you see on the peninsula today is a vivid sign of how much Koreans love their coach.

by Chun Su-jin

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