> Sports > 2002 FIFA WORLD CUP 

   June 24, 2002 | 1545 IST


Korean fan
Asian Ascent

  Best of the Web

A compilation of the best links on the World Cup.

  Soccer Store

Snap up Jerseys, Books, CD ROMs and Arsenal soccer balls. Click here

Act Now! Treat those Scratches

S. Korea set for Asia's biggest party

E-Mail this report to a friend
Print this page Best Printed on  HP Laserjets

Millions of South Korean "Red Devil" fans prepared on Monday for the penultimate stop on their incredible World Cup journey and easily Asia's most important soccer match yet -- their team's semi-final match against Germany.

Win or lose, South Korea will play one more match after that, either the June 30 final in Yokohama in co-host Japan or the third-place play-off in the South Korean city of Taegu on the day before.

They are already the top team in Asian soccer history and have put the country more firmly on the map for foreign investors and viewers than the 1988 Seoul Olympics did.

Sobered up but still on a high after Saturday's quarter-final penalty-shootout victory over Spain, millions of South Koreans with renewed confidence look set to take to the streets again on Tuesday in red T-shirts to watch the semi-final on giant screens.

"We guess more than 6.5 million people will gather to support our soccer team," a senior police officer said.

Cloudy weather is forecast with an outside chance of rain, but even the monsoon, which officially began on Sunday, would be unlikely to deter the Red Devils.

Police estimate 13 million people -- almost 30 percent of South Korea's population of 48 million -- took to the streets for the five matches the team has played. Two million alone were crammed between city hall and a nearby intersection in Seoul.

"With the World Cup, a tremendous energy is gushing out of the Korean people," South Korean President Kim Dae-jung said during a meeting with foreign investors.

"(South) Korea is now making a leap into the world. Foreign companies wanting to advance to China, Japan and Russia can make a win-win story by joining hands with Korea."


Kim watched Saturday's win and later described it, with uncharacteristic hyperbole, as the most important day in 5,000 years of Korean history.

South Korea's World Cup performance has certainly made soccer history on the pitch but also on the streets. The images of millions of exuberant red-clad fans cheering their team incessantly and then swiftly clearing the streets will abide.

Police in co-hosts South Korea and Japan remain on high alert, particularly against September 11-style attacks, but the focus in Seoul will be on ensuring crowd safety in the streets.

The Defence Ministry said it planned to stick to its usual security programme, placing sniper squads and trucks with anti-biochemical gear at the soccer-only Seoul stadium.

A world away, up in the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone that bisects the Korean peninsula South Korean intelligence troops were checking huge loudspeakers being used to blare radio commentaries of South Korea's matches to troops in the North.

The semi-final will be relayed over the razor wire and mine fields to those troops within earshot in the North.

Most North Koreans have been utterly in the dark about South Korea's remarkable performance and only edited highlights of other matches have been broadcast. But North Korean television gave the isolated country's viewers an unprecedented glimpse on Sunday of the South's 2-1 win over Italy last Tuesday.

North and South Korea are still technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce rather a peace treaty. The anniversary of the start of the war is June 25 -- the date of the Seoul semi-final.

Just a day before the match and on a farm less than 100 km (60) miles south of Seoul, officials confirmed three pigs had tested positive for foot-and-mouth disease.

It was latest in a series of cases that prompted European countries, including Germany, to warn travelling fans not to return home with food from the country to avoid transmitting the disease to European livestock. The disease is harmless to humans but fatal to animals with divided hooves.

Back to top
(c) Copyright 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


(c) 2002 India Limited. All Rights Reserved.