Te Hamin Gwo! A Korean supporter looks forward to the game
Phil, Rob and I joined about a million Koreans in Seoul’s main square to watch their opening game against Poland. As we wandered through the streets on our way to the centre, we paused in many a soju tent – where people go to eat tempura and drink soju, the brutal local spirit – to wish the locals well, though none of us rated their chances much. Famous last words, as it turned out…
The crowds gather in the centre of Seoul
We arrived to find the crowds whipping themselves into a hyponotic frenzy with their mantras ‘te hamin gwo!’ and ‘o-oh, pilsen Korea!‘ as they watched the huge screens on the sides of the buildings surrounding the square. The screens had been repurposed for the occasion (from the usual barrage of adverts and corporate slogans) to show the match live to the assembled masses.
Rob can’t believe what he’s seeing
Rob and I parted company from Phil, who wanted to go off and do some audio recording of the Korean drummers, and we picked our way through the seated crowds. Every nook and cranny within eyeline of a screen seemed to have been filled with people, but finally we found ourselves a convenient perch atop a cigarette booth – ignoring the complaints of the owner, who feared that it wouldn’t take our combined weight.
An agent-provocateur stirs up the crowd
Although we had a wonderful vista of the crowd and the police lines, we discovered why no-one had sat down on this prime piece of real estate; both screens that we could see from the roof of the shop were partially obscured – one by trees, the other by an inconveniently located paper lantern. Still, since we weren’t there to watch the match (or particularly bothered about the result) it suited us perfectly. We could watch the scene evolve as the match progressed, and the crowd reaction was enough for both of us to know exactly what was going on.
Delight at an unexpected victory
The most memorable moment of the experience for me was the roar of the crowd when the Koreans scored their second goal. Rather than shaking the air with bass, the tone was at least an octave higher; my ears sang for an hour afterwards from the onslaught of treble. It reminded me of archive footage of Beatles gigs… and on closer inspection of the crowd, I realised that it was predominantly composed of young Korean women. Imagine that happening at a football game in England…
Onlookers throw paper out of a building reflecting the final score in its glass facade
I was very glad to see the Korean hosts get the result that they did. It’d have been a very different, and sadder, night any other way. It was a joy to join in the celebrations… one of the highlights of the trip so far, and one of the reasons I made it in the first place.
Written by Chris, and more from Phil:
Yes this truly did make for a bizarre night in Seoul.
With it’s endless supply of TV screens adorning every bar, eatery and street-side stall, you could take no more than 20 steps to watch the next passage of play as the Korean team won their first ever game in the World Cup finals. The roar spilled from each TV site for the Korean’s first goal and the rest of the street emptied as those with other business dropped everything to join in the fervour.
This was the exuberant ‘Fighting Koreans’ as the fans are referred to and I have a beautiful scarf to prove it.
A great night out, a heartwarmer for the Seoul of soul… on goes the Cup and we look forward to experiencing the Japanese hosting when we go over there for the second half. Meanwhile Korea rocks with football bullets.
Written by Christian Wach on Thursday, June 6th, 2002
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