Football Goes East: Business, Culture, and the People's Game in China, Japan, and South Korea

By Wolfram Manzenreiter; John Horne | Go to book overview

9

Football and the South Korean imagination

South Korea and the 2002 World Cup tournaments

Yoon Sung Choi


Introduction

What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?

(James 1983)

By posing this question, C.L.R. James calls attention to the critical necessity within the discourse of sports to refrain from speaking about sports exclusively; as an alternative, he offers us a legacy picked up by many analysts that focuses on the non-sportive and multi-dimensional social processes involved in the performance, spectatorship and organisation of sport-related mega-events. The 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, provides a fruitful case study for examining precisely the way in which a sporting event should and can lead to discussions about identity formation at the global, local, civic and personal levels. Given the pervasive impact this sporting event had on the everyday lives of Korean citizens, it would be difficult to argue that football is only played out within the stadium itself.

Framed by a discussion of the nature and significance of sports and mega-events, this study attempts to investigate the changes made to everyday life during the World Cup as a means to project a new kind of Korea. The role of two specific groups is examined: (1) the National Council for a Better Korea Movement (NCBKM), an organisation instituted by the government to help facilitate a civic transformation in preparation for the World Cup, and (2) the Red Devils, the official fan-club of the national Korean football team. Both groups were instrumental in the national image-making and identity formation that took place within the nation during the football tournaments. Interestingly, although both groups shared the desire to construct and portray a positive image of their nation to the world, their attitudes and tactics diverged considerably. Thus, the competing discourses between the two organisations insert the 'image-making' that took place in South Korea into current theoretical debates concerning globalisation processes and whether or not they lead to homogenisation or heterogenisation, unity or fragmentation (Maguire 1999:16). Naturally, the study of global sports reflects the general themes and inquiries that characterise the discourse on globalisation.

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