Anti-fans say they’re sick of the World Cup
Listening to them chant, Dae Han Min Guk! (Republic of Korea), while pounding drums, it seemed the entire nation was caught up in the soccer madness that night. Everyone, that is, except “Lully.”
That night, Lully kept the windows in his room tightly shut. Although he wanted to turn on the television to “shut out the noise” the Red Devil supporters were creating outside, he dared not ― he knew he would only have to hear more on the World Cup fest.
So what did he do instead?
“I kept myself busy working at home,” the 34-year-old said. “I had better stuff to do than to spend 90 minutes watching a ball game on TV.”
He added, however, there was another good explanation why he had a negative attitude toward what has now become a national party, and that the reason was in line with why he only gave his online ID, “Lully,” to a reporter, instead of his real name.
“I don’t hate soccer, but I hate the fuss everybody’s making over these games,” he said. “It’s almost totalitarian, and it’s scary.”
In 2002, when Korea co-hosted the World Cup with Japan, he said he was ridiculed by his colleagues when he did not wear the red jersey they were all “supposed to” wear on the days Korea played.
“I am afraid others will attack me this time if my name or occupation runs in the paper after I say unfriendly things about the World Cup,” he said wearily.
He recently started a blog called “Anti-World Cup” on the Daum.com portal, aimed at other World Cup abstainers in Korea. Some, he said, are oblivious to the World Cup, some are indifferent, while some are downright angry about soccer and hate the Red Devil supporters.
“It was supposed to be an online bulletin board where people could discuss freely why they wanted to avoid the World Cup,” said “Hani,” another member of the online club, who also gave his cyber nickname only. But he said problems started when a member suggested they might as well hold a rally near Seoul City Plaza, the epicenter of the thunderous cheer squads and where enormous outdoor television screens are affixed to the walls of office buildings for Korean soccer fanatics. That discussion led members to suggest they should hold a demonstration on the day Korea played the French team, which was Monday. It never happened.
Hearing the news in advance, the online club was bombarded from Friday by Red Devil supporters who attacked the 400-odd members as “national traitors.” Lully and Hani received threatening e-mails. Among the barrage of criticisms, some said they could not wait for the protest to be held because that would be the “abstainers’ doomsday.”
“Well, I admit that posting an overlapped photo of the Korean national flag and the Nazi insignia was a bit over the top,” Lully said. “So we pulled that off.”
Another Web site, “Antisoccer.com,” formed by members hostile toward soccer enthusiasts, didn’t back down when soccer fans accused them of, in sum, being party-poopers. Its members became more aggressive as the online quarreling went on.
In blood-red letters, the text ― Warning: DOGS and SOCCER FANS do not enter this site ― pops up on the Antisoccer home page.
“This is the only place where you are not forced to watch the sport [which only dogs play], this is the only place where you can freely criticize the World Cup and this is the only place for normal people,” the text continues.
Aside from messages personally attacking soccer fans, the site is filled with photos of drunk or half-naked soccer fans cheering their team.
However threatening its members words are, they have so far been confined to the virtual world. Not everyone feels so constrained: Some of the largest civic groups in Korea have taken some real-world actions.
From midnight to 4 a.m. on June 6, just three days before the World Cup started, the members of the civic group Cultural Action went around the city, covering benches at bus stops and subways with anti-World Cup stickers.
“Is the World Cup the only important issue now in Korea?” one of the stickers asked. Another read, “I object to my enthusiasm for the World Cup being exploited by companies.” The stickers were soon scraped off by the city, but the group said it would continue to protest.
“Korean society is showing no interest in anything other than the World Cup these days,” said Kim Wan, a Cultural Action member. “All events are being controlled by giant businesses, the media and the government, with the intention to use the cheering crowds for their own benefit.”
The group said it was most uncomfortable about the fact that the broadcasters gave so much air time to World Cup-related news.
On the day of the Togo match, KBS1 devoted 61 percent of its on-air time to World Cup-related stories, while MBC used 77 percent and SBS 88 percent, Cultural Action’s monitoring team said.
On Monday morning, members of the group rallied in front of the SBS building in Mok-dong, western Seoul, to protest what it called the broadcaster’s “irresponsible act.” “We are not opposing the World Cup itself,” Mr. Kim yelled into a microphone. “We don’t want to criticize those who choose to love the World Cup, either. But we want to criticize being forced to watch what we don’t want to watch and want people to know what they are missing behind this forced fanaticism.”
Few people showed up for the rally, which was the morning of Korea’s 1-1 draw against France.
“Out of the 21 news clips last night on the SBS 8 o’clock news, 17 were about the World Cup,” Mr. Kim said. “Is SBS a World Cup Broadcasting Station?”
Jun Gyu-chan, a broadcasting professor at the Korean National University of Arts, says he believes the enthusiasm over the World Cup this year is not as innocent as it was in 2002.
“A lot of people agree with the anti-World Cup slogans now because they feel used,” he said, noting how plazas downtown had turned into a pit of advertisements, with cameras rolling by trying to capture shots of happy people wearing red T-shirts emblazoned with company logos.
“Businesses and broadcasters are coercing us to watch the commercials, news coverage and entertainment shows that repeatedly show what happened in 2002, hoping to forcibly recreate the reverberations of that famous 2002 victory,” he said.
Less aggressive anti-World Cup advocates gathered at a quiet cafe near Hongik University in Seoul. Ageha, which serves coffee and whisky, called itself a “Football-Free Zone.”
“Here, you shouldn’t talk about soccer, and of course you can’t cheer loudly like you normally would in other bars,” said Kim-Park Tae-sik, the owner of Ageha. “This place will be kept as peaceful as it always has been when there are no World Cup games on.”
“I think there should be rights for those who want to spend the World Cup period quietly,” he said. “Its so rude of those who think they can be excused for yelling without considering that they could be disturbing other tables.”
But even Ageha turned on its television on the day of the Korea game.
“Customers in red shirts came through the doors and all asked us why we didn’t have a wide-screen TV,” said Kim Ki-sang, one of the servers there. “At first, we shooed them out. But we realized we were not being fair to those who wanted to watch the game.”
So what did they do?
They pushed the television to one side of the room, screened it off with a folding screen and created spaces for pro- and anti-World Cup fans.
“After all, we have no right to stop or force anyone from doing what they want,” said Ms. Kim. “As long as they respect others [and stay quiet] we let them watch the games.”
by Lee Min-a