As we all know, this year was the 2012 Olympics in London! During the last winter Olympics I happened to be in Korea and remembered how INTO the games the country got, you really feel the pride and unity all over the country when these sorts of things go on because Korea is quite small and hungry to win! One game Koreans get very excited for is soccer, and one thing Koreans get RABID excited about is playing against Japan… so when Korea and Japan Men’s Soccer made it to the finals to compete for the bronze medal I knew we had to go out and mingle with the crowds vs stay at home while Nara screamed at his TV all night lol.
The game was set for 8/11/2012!
Just for a bit of cultural background into why this game was so very important for Koreans~ I’m just going to say it, Korea pretty much hates Japan… If this is news to you I suggest you read up on the History a bit to get an understanding. Some people really hate Japan, others just hate the people but love things from Japan, and some like Japan but treat it kind of like a rival school situation when these sorts of things come up. Anything having to do with Korea VS Japan has the thick air of “WE MUST AT LEAST BEAT JAPAN” wafting around the country.
You can read a very interesting article on Korea VS Japan’s Soccer rivalry + history HERE.
Everything in Korea has a back story, this is the key to understanding the Korean people.
Not only was this Soccer which Koreans get heated about in general, it was for an Olympic medal… the first medal Korea had the chance to win in men’s soccer EVER. On the other side, it had been about 44 years since Japan’s Bronze win and only its 2nd time ever making it to the quarter finals. Both sides wanted to stick it to the other pretty bad, which made it so much more than just a game.
Adding to the heat was the fact that this game took place just two days after Korea’s independence day, a holiday here that they celebrate liberation from Japan called 광복절 in 1945 and still causes a lot of strong emotions around here with the population. The players had something on the line as well, if you win an Olympic medal in Korea you are exempt from the 2 year mandatory military service here so they had something very valuable at stake.
We found out that for this final match they would have a crowd gathering at 시청 앞 서울 광장 the field in front of the city hall (Seoul Plaza)~ I really wanted to experience this in a crowd,so we made plans to not sleep that night!!
The day before Nara got very excited and went out to buy us some team shirts~
The Korean national team is called the “Red Devils”, The Reds”, or “태극전사 Taegeuk knights” here and Nara kept talking about how Seoul was just a huge sea of red shirts back in 2002 for the World Cup! He insisted that we had to customize our gear because that is what everyone did~ plus it was extra awesome. lol don’t have to ask me twice!! I checked around youtube for shirt mods and found a cute sliced back style that kinda wove the pieces into each other.
The tutorial I followed can be found ♥ HERE ♥ give it a try~ it was easy!
Cutting this shirt was really nerve-wracking~ I was afraid I would screw it up and have nothing to wear that night haha! So far so good though!
After I finished the weaving I slipped it on to check and it looked ok!! SUCCESS!!!!!
Yes some sports shirts spell Korea as “Corea” here~the reason changes depending on who you ask though.
Korea in the oldest documents was spelled with a ‘C’, but around the time of the Japanese occupation ‘K’orea started being used more commonly. A lot of Koreans believe that in the early 19th century during the Japanese rule “Corea” was switched by the Japanese for “Korea” because ‘C’ came before Japan’s ‘J’ in the alphabet and the Japanese favored ‘K’orea to come after Japan. Some also believe the switch came during the Olympics when Japan made sure that Korea would enter the stadium after Japan. This is one of those things that has mixed history either way, so while some Koreans do believe it… others think it is false since both spellings were often used back in the day with English printings leaning toward the “K” spelling.
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It some parts of Europe, Korea is spelled with a C (like France and Spain which are big soccer countries) so another reasoning is its just the European way of spelling it which tends to come up a lot in these sorts of sports events. My personal feeling is it is probably a bit of both… its the Euro way to spell it which they are preferring for sports since most of the good teams come from those areas + when it comes to rivalry between Korea vs Japan, everything counts.
Nara felt like his needed some paint splatters so we made a mess over my counter tops flinging paint everyplace lol. His design had a tiger on it ( How Koreans depict the countries shape) so we painted on some cool claw marks in his side and back haha.
Well now we are dressed to cheer~ so lets go!!!
Why yes, I have badass silver sneakers~ thank you for noticing!
The game was set to start at around 4am, but even though we arrived at the Seoul City Hall before midnight the main grass area was already packed with just a few empty patches to be filled. We quickly bought a mat and squeezed in one of the gaps because a lot of other people had started to arrive at the same time as us.
Some of Nara’s friends came out to watch the game + our friend Thomas (Mr. Starcraft host, remember?) so we settled in to wait 4+ hours for the madness to begin. Even though it was the middle of the night is was still pretty hot out UGH!
While we waited they showed reruns and live matches involving Korea, so that kept things a bit interesting.
Drinking was A-Ok at the event, so the guys brought some cold beers to enjoy. I hate beer, so I opted for grape soda~ did you know Korean’s love grape soda? You can buy it just about everyplace here!
Overall the crowd seemed to be teenagers to young adults like us~ I think a lot of that had to do with it being so late at night though hahaha.
also plenty of fried snacks to be had~ Korea never misses a chance to sell you fried food!
They had a KFC open across the street so the guys ran over and bought a few buckets to chow on. I hate KFC…. but wow… this batch was pretty good! I’m not sure if it was because it was Korea, or because I was sitting on a mat outside at 4am, but yum. Fried chicken really does taste the best when you are outside.
The vendors soon set up shop to sell all sorts of spirit items~ glowing devil horns, glowing bows, and the ever popular inflatable wacking tubes~ Koreans LOVE those things. You blow them up and just thwap them together in celebration lol. We bought a few for our section, only 1,000 won so why not?
the guys had fun playing with the tubes before the game even started lol
The glowing headbands were very cheap and popular that night~ it was like a sea of devils! Also check out that group of friends with the light up bows, so cute ^^ they each bought a different color!
Kyoung-Chan made a handsome devil.
Nara and I thoroughly enjoyed the festive-ness of it all!
to get people hyped up for the game they pulled out a GIANT flag that literally covered almost the entire field! I believe the tv stations that came to televise the event brought these for the camera, it was pretty awesome though!
They suddenly charged through and you were covered under the giant cloth~ everyone was laughing and cheering! Are sports games back home this much good clean fun? Seriously, it was so harmonious~ no crazy drunks or fighting! I had such a wonderful experience~
As we waited for the players to take the field the crowd began to get excited and cheer~ I got to learn a lot of the main Korean sports cheers this night haha!
they also brought out some giant inflatable figures to dance around haha! Check out the other side of the gate, that was another entire extra field that came in late so they had to sit waaaaay to the side of the tv! The area at this point was absolutely packed for such a small space, the news said about 20,000 people came to the field and they just rain out of room! Despite all this it was so organized and everything worked very well for a mass public gathering like this.
The news reporters started popping up in the crows to broadcast the turnout! Actually Nara, Thomas, and I got interviewed and Tom was Mr foreign fabulous and spoke amazingly well on the subject (well he does speak for a living) but omg I bombed…. I know nothing about soccer and they asked me like how many points I thought Korea would win by and what I thought of the gameplay this year… I had a very “DUH I LIKE TURTLES” moment. I said I hoped Korea would win by 100 points and they took my statement literally….Shit. I don’t think they aired it on tv thank god.
Sexy flag dress girl with the two Turkish food vendors lol. Oh~ so fancy Thomas!
Finally the game began and everyone stood up to cheer!
Lets make some noise! 대! -한-민-국 ! 쾅 쾅 쾅 쾅 쾅!
Someone stepped out on stage to deliver a quick speech about the importance of the game and to get people excited and cheering. Everyone cheered and began waving giant Korean flags~ It always amuses me when people actually own giant flags, they must be excited when an event comes around that they can use them at hehe.
That would be Nara’s “F-Yeah Koreaaaaa” face haha he gets so excited for games!
The game itself was VERY exciting, if you have not watched it it is worth a viewing knowing all the tension that you are aware of now. After a long wait, right before half-time Korea’s 박주영 made a goal! YAY!! After one more attempt with a near miss we went to halftime and everyone was excited and cheering after waiting in suspense for that first goal for so long!
During half-time we had some interesting Korean cheer squads come up on stage, plus a surprise mini concert from TransFixion!!!!!! Check out the video someone put of it online ♥ They had much closer seats vs mine haha. You can also easily find the official music video on youtube if you would rather hear that ^^
Bit of info if you are confused about why this is awesome, Transfixion is a K-rock band that became super famous during the world cup for the song “Call of the Reds” which became kind of Korea’s unofficial sports/pride anthem! If the song sounds familiar, Bigbang and a few other Kpop groups have done covers of this song due to its popularity, but Transfixion is the original! Ah it was such an awesome surprise to have them just show up and preform!!!
BFF Bros Korea style
When the game resumed everyone was so fired up and ready to finish this! After two minutes into the second half Goo Jachul 구자철 made another goal for Korea, putting the score to 2-0. Japan got one goal, but it was taken away because they prevented the goalie from doing his job~ the crowd was so amusing for this… at first everyone was super upset they got a goal, but then switched to cheers and a boom of laughter when the point was taken away. At first I was confused, like “what happened? wait what???” lol
Even though it was the middle of the night, the television ratings of people watching this game were at 51.3%!
The sun started to come up just as the game was finishing up. Everyone waited contently for Japan to call it quits~
and as soon as they did everyone snapped back awake and jumped around in celebration! haha OK YAY WE WON!!!
Overall it was such a wonderful experience, I am so lucky I was here in Korea for the Olympics again AND able to attend such a fun event~ the stars kind of lined up for a really awesome game. It has been a long time since the world cup, so I think many Koreans are hungry to come together like this again and I can see why! When national pride is at stake the people really come together so harmoniously here, I wish it was like this all the time haha.
The sun quickly came out and everyone dispersed! Time to go home and get some sleep….
Some had already passed out before the game could finish though.. haha.
Did you watch this game when it happened? Who did you cheer for? I am not much of a sports fan, but this was so much fun! If you are in Korea you should totally try and check out a Soccer or Baseball game sometime, I hear they are just as fun We have been meaning to buy some tickets for those!