Saturday, October 21, 2006

South Korean Nationalism

Anthony, Wade & Crew: USA vs. Korea - 8.15.06 Posted by Picasa

My soccer teammate and good friend, Mike Clayton hipped me to the Korea vs. US basketball game on August 15th. I enjoyed watching LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the squad do their thing, but I was really impressed (and slightly amused) by Korean nationalism.

The US had a significant lead by the second quarter. The final score was 116 to 63. At no point after the second quarter was Korea within 27 points of the US, yet Korean pride is so strong that the score didn’t really matter. Every time a Korean scored, the arena erupted with cheers as if a Korean player had just slam dunked the gaming winning point!

It finally made sense why I was unable to watch a few World Cup games at my favorite venues.

If you scroll down, you’ll see a photo of the massive crowd gathered at Seoul’s City Hall to watch Korea’s first 2006 game against Togo. I thought Koreans were crazy for the World Cup. Turns out they’re just crazy for Korea in the World Cup.

An hour before kick off for the Korea vs. Togo game I was turned away from restaurants and a bar I used visit once a week. They told me I should have made a reservation. Every place in Ilsan was PACKED with Koreans in their national jersey cheering, “Daehanminguk!”

The crowds grew with every game Korea played. Trying to get to City Hall for the Korea vs. France game meant squeezing through a crowd that had gathered hours before the match, and was already shoulder to shoulder 4 blocks away from City Hall.

Everything changed as soon as Korea was kicked out of the Cup.

The same places that told me I needed a reservation to watch the Korea games were like, “What, there’s a game tonight? Really? Who? What time? Oh no, you can watch the first half, but we’ll be closing at 2.” when I went back to watch matches after Korea was no longer in the tournament. It was frustrating, but funny at the same time.

All said and done, at least it’s not the kind of nationalism that leads to brutality against foreigners…


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