[EDITORIALS]Let fans be fans

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[EDITORIALS]Let fans be fans

The ticket policy for a soccer game Sunday between the North and South Korean national teams, along with restrictions on how the spectators will be allowed to cheer, are causing despair among real soccer fans and giving rise to criticism.
At first, the committee in charge of organizing the game, which is part of the Liberation Day festivities, was not going to make tickets available to the general public at all, reserving them instead for various groups participating in the holiday celebrations. But after getting an increasing amount of flak from the public, the committee has decided to make 7,000 tickets available over the Internet.
Nevertheless, citing prearranged agreements between the North and the South, spectators will not be allowed to bring the South Korean flag or other banners that could be used for rooting for a team. Nor will chanting “Daehan Minguk” be allowed. Because of these rules, the Red Devils, the national team’s official fan organization, has returned its tickets in protest. It is understandable that the government and the Korea Football Association might have anguished over the issue. They might have worried that overenthusiastic cheering could lead to incidents. It is also difficult to criticize them for trying to be a sensible host. Using the “peninsula flag” in joint events with the North has become customary.
Nevertheless, to forbid waving the South Korean flag and chanting “Daehan Minguk” is childish and overly restrictive. The Red Devils’ cheering style has become a nationwide phenomenon. People are not chanting slogans and waving the flag because of ideology, or because they see themselves as part of a struggle to prove whose regime is better. These are natural expressions of the pure joy of watching a soccer game. The decision to block such expressions is an overreaction that stems from viewing a simple athletic event from an overpoliticized perspective.
At the recent East Asian Football Federation Championship, the Red Devils cheered without causing any trouble. In a sight that was a true pleasure to see, the peninsula flag was displayed while players from both sides were cheered. If the upcoming celebration is to become a true base for reconciliation between South and North, it should not become a closed party to which certain groups are invited and told how to clap. Let’s not subject a pure athletic event to political notions.
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