|Our reporter with war paint, objectively reporting
from the scene at 2 am.
The 2002 FIFA World Cup has been one of the most exciting and
unpredictable ones in recent years. In particular, co-host Korea
managed to confound expectations and make history numerous times
by advancing aggressively into the semi-finals before falling to
traditional powerhouse Germany. And yet, even the loss was a fabulous
accomplishment of historical proportions, as no Asian nation had
ever progressed so far into the World Cup.
But even though the journey ended early for the Korean team,
the unprecedented outpouring of support for the "Red Devils"
by Koreans in the homeland and around the world captivated millions
of people around the world. In Korea alone, some 5 million people
took to the streets for the quarter-final game against Spain and
an estimated 7 million came out to cheer the national team against
While it would be impossible to match those numbers outside
Korea., Koreans and people of all ethnicities gathered en masse
to show their support in L.A. Koreatown. Approximately 11,000 people
congregated in the parking lot of the Equitable Life building on
June 22, 2002 to cheer, shout, jump, gasp, and generally have the
time of their lives while watching the game on the giant video screen
that had been set up in one end of the lot.
Perhaps most importantly, the 2002 World Cup games brought together
Koreans (and would-be Koreans!) in a harmonic expression of solidarity
and pride. There were no fights, no angry arguments, no soccer hooliganism,
and when the games had ended, people spontaneously bent down to
pick up the litter scattered on the grounds of the parking lot,
to the astonishment of the numerous TV crews on the scene. Even
the thousands of bits of newspaper confetti that had been tossed
into the air during the match were hand-scooped into trash bags.
The scene was the same in Seoul.
"Be the Reds!" read the shirts worn by the supporters
of the Red Devils. Perhaps it's not perfect English, but the meaning
is perfectly clear: it's great to be Korean and great to be Asian.
Paul Ji Hoon Lee
Managing Editor, AsianConnections.com
Director of Marketing & Co-Founder, RottenTomatoes.com