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 Germany.

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

 
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