Cheering for their efforts

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Cheering for their efforts

Jeong Jin-ho
The author is a reporter of economic policy team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
“The important thing is to have an unbreakable heart.” This was written on the Taegukgi, or the Korean national flag. After the last Group H match against Portugal, a few Korean flags were handed to the players from the audience, with the phrase written on one of them.
You could see the flag all throughout the match among the audience. As the Korean national team dramatically beat its rival with a tie-breaking goal at the last minute, many people came to notice the flag with the phrase. But what matters is that the message had already been sent to the Korean team even before the match ended.
The line was written down by 29-year-old Kim Ui-min who went to Qatar to cheer for the Taeguk Warriors with his father. He said he had written it in his dorm the night before the match took place. Writing down lines like “never give up,” he resolved to cheer for the team regardless of the outcome.
In an interview after coming back to Korea, Son Heung-min also mentioned the phrase. “Before the match began, we guessed how likely it would be for us to win the game. But we could win, with our fighting spirit and an unbreakable heart.
The line about an unbreakable heart started to be used in October, during the 2022 League of Legends World Championship. It was mentioned among game fans back then. Now the phrase has become the most important words of this year.
The popularity of the phrase is more meaningful when considering all the newly-coined words with depressing, negative meanings, which show widespread financial difficulties or the wealth gap in the nation, have been widely mentioned among people.
The phrase represents optimism and hope because it is about the process itself rather than the result. It’s not about winning or losing, winning the Cup or being pushed out of the tournament. There is no possible way for negativism or skepticism to win when someone does their best with an unbreakable heart.
It is also different from the phrase which gained attention during the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics: “Although they lost, they did their best. It was a good game.” People cheered for the athletes who ranked fourth in the games with the phrase. Still, the result of losing a match comes ahead of their effort. That is why the phrase that mentions an unbreakable heart means more.
Tanaka, who appeared on TV on Dec. 7, is an alter-ego owned by Kim Kyung-wook, a Korean comedian. The character wears outdated luxury brands and speaks poor Korean. His shaggy hair is always greasy. Now, you can see him appear in so many YouTube channels or videos. Definitely, he has become a star among the millennials and Gen Z. He started to get noticed by the public from the middle of this year, but he has been uploading videos for four years. “I’ve had so many moments that I wanted to give up. But I’ve always been happy doing it,” said Tanaka.
I know some high school third year students who are preparing to apply for the university entrance exams after the Korean SAT and who are seeking a job before their graduation from college. This year, I would like to cheer for their efforts, their unbreakable heart itself, rather than the results.

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