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   June 26, 2002 | 1630 IST


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Koreans look to future after Cup exit

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South Koreans wasted little time moping on Wednesday after their soccer team's extraordinary World Cup adventure ended and focused instead on how to tap the energy unleashed by millions of "Red Devil" fans who backed the side.

Germany beat South Korea 1-0 in Tuesday's semi-final in Seoul, ending a remarkable run that began with limited expectations of a first World Cup win for the Asian side and ended one stop short of Sunday's final in Yokohama, Japan.

"In the end, the South Korean Express simply ran out of steam, the Korea Times newspaper said in a story on how united Germany won its first ticket to the final on the day South Korea marked the start of the war that divided it from the North.

It may have been "game over" for high-tech South Korea, but disappointed yet proud South Koreans, in the media and on the streets, kept things in perspective and saw the bigger picture.

"We need to relax all that passion and excitement and think about how we have created some beautiful history," said the newspaper Chosun Ilbo in an editorial.


Perhaps the abiding image of this World Cup will be the millions of red-shirted fans who gathered in Seoul and across co-host South Korea for each of their team's matches.

"The spontaneous party culture created by the younger generation has opened the floodgates of change for the whole of Korean society," the Chosun Ilbo said, referring to high-spirited but orderly parties that brought out millions. There were only minor incidents and accidents on Tuesday, police said.

"The task ahead will be about how our society will satisfy that searching happiness, overflowing confidence, and future possibilities."

South Korean officials were already working at the presidential Blue House on Wednesday on how to harness the power felt on the streets -- and broadcast around the globe -- to raise the country's economic game.

"I think there is a national consensus that we should make this passionate atmosphere a driving force to boost the country's fortunes," President Kim Dae-jung said in a statement.


South Korea's defeat had little impact on the country's financial markets, which were buffeted by news of improper accounting at U.S. long-distance carrier WorldCom Inc.

Beyond the economy, South Korea will be looking at what effect the event could have on domestic politics in a presidential election year, ties with co-host and long-time rival Japan as well as on North Korea, which has said little about the event and not reported the defeat.

It may be too early to draw too many conclusions, but few doubt the month-long tournament has put South Korea more firmly on the investor map than any amount of public relations and had a cathartic effect on a society long hung-up on history.

"I think our national football team and our people did their best," Kim said through his spokeswoman, Park Sun-sook. "They proved to the world we are qualified to have a bigger dream."

He urged South Koreans to get behind their team and the event with the same passion until the third-place playoff in the South Korean city of Taegu on Saturday and the end of the month-long tournament the following day. South Korea will face the losers of Wednesday's Brazil-Turkey match in the playoff game.


Fans who gathered to watch Tuesday's match on big screens went home dejected but not devastated. There were the inevitable tears but many sang and chanted until well after midnight.

The Red Devil fan club originally planned to unfurl a huge united Korea flag in the stadium to reflect the South's hope for eventual reunification with the communist North but decided against it because of FIFA rules against political messages.

The sentiment was especially relevant because June 25 was the anniversary of the start of the Korean War in 1950, and Germany's unification after decades of division has inspired South Koreans.

The war lasted three years and ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty, meaning the countries are technically still at war.

But there were mixed feelings on the street about channeling "Red Devil power" in this direction.

"Whenever I shouted Dae Han Min Guk (Republic of Korea), I didn't think of North Korea as part of our nation," said 18-year-old student Lee Ah-yun. "Soccer is just a sport, I don't want to expand beyond that."

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