Confessions of a Gyopo + World Cup viewing events

The World Cup has begun, kickoff between Brazil and Croatia underway. The best part about Group H is Korea gets the maximum amount of time to prepare for their first game (vs Russia) on June 17th [June 18th in Korea].With their tune up form lately, Coach Hong will need all the time he can get.

Noonchi, a multimedia site putting “Korean culture in context” are hosting a World Cup viewing party in NYC event featuring Korea v Russia – starts at 4pm EST with kickoff time at 6pm. 

The Tavern is asking everyone from around the world -do you know of other World Cup viewing events featuring Korea group matches?  Let us know (via comment section -and include address if possible) – we’ll post it up -that’ll join alongside Noonchi’s event and a Washington DC Dupont Circle public viewing party June 26 with Korea v Belgium…


Which segues to this: Confessions of a Gyopo [title to be determined]- a piece I submitted to Noonchi for their new Korean soccer page, open for viewing beginning June 16th. Talk about context – the audience intended is not necessarily Tavern goers but to casual readers taking topical interest in Korea+World Cup.  It does however, give an idea of how I got acquainted with a certain Taeguk Warriors squad in the summer of 2002. I set this up as like discovering something exotic and mysterious – needless to say it’s an adventure and a journey that I am still on…

Here is an excerpt:

Magic. Was it a trick, an illusion, divine intervention or something that you can’t quite put your finger on but know it’s something special, here in a flash and suddenly gone?  Subject: 2002 Korean World Cup squad, 1 game and 1 goal away from a finale appearance in the biggest tournament on the planet. Korea was on the edge of pulling off the most impossible feat imaginable at the time – but something else unexpected happened – it allowed people, and not just Koreans, to dream far beyond what was considered possible in the hegemony of global football.

But let me stop for a moment. There is danger in comparing the team in 2002 to Korea’s current incarnation going to Brazil World Cup 2014.  I won’t go there, but I will get back to a hot June summer in Denver, where I didn’t even know the World Cup was even about to begin, much less be co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.  What was on my mind?  Hockey. You read that right, hockey. How Patrick Roy blew game 7 against Detroit to miss the Stanley Cup finals. Sad to say, soccer wasn’t even on my radar. And I wasn’t just a Korean American trying to ditch the adjective. With my local sports affiliations identified along with abject ignorance of football (the round kind) to boot, I fulfilled the wish of my immigrant father and became what he could never be: a full fledged absorbed American.

By chance while flipping though the Denver News Post, a small mention about an upcoming Korea group match in the World Cup. Curious, I had to set my timer to 2:30am to go down the rabbit hole.  I don’t EVER watch games that late, but something compelled me.  Not sure, but this was something mysterious – like meeting the girl living in the apartment below and taking up her invitation to an underground club way past midnight. I was stepping into unexplored territory, not sure what I was going to find.

I can’t even tell you who their opponent was; I had trouble even finding a bar open that late to watch the game.  But I know from the minute I saw the channel flip to display the game, I was mesmerized. Before the match I wondered by what margin would they lose. Maybe they weren’t even supposed to be there. But the way in which they went through, approaching full time with nail biting goals that typified their never-say-die attitude, before I knew it I was hooked. They were the ultimate underdogs, not having won a single World Cup match prior to 2002. They were representing a nation of survivors on the biggest of world stages.

Suddenly my fascination turned into a logistical scramble for the rest of the games in figuring out homes I could crash for the night carrying cable TV.  Most bars in Denver closed at 2 in the morning. The western hemisphere trying to watch games live was upside down in relation to Asia, further challenges in scheming, strategizing ways to watch in the dead of night.  For me, it added to the intrigue of it all.

Honestly, the rest of the tournament was a blur, an exhilarating one at that, eventually leaving me hoarse from yelling and legs tired from running laps in the streets like a madman every time Korea scored.  I wonder how it was that the Denver Police never picked me up as a deranged lunatic at 4 am?  I was there, with the thousands of red devils crammed in the stadiums, the millions more jammed in the streets, watching with bated breath, waiting…and then erupting in euphoric frenzy like none other, jumping up and down, yelling at the night sky louder than what seemed possible.  And somehow this Korean squad of players completely unknown to me was managing to free themselves, past Poland and Portugal and on into the advanced stages of the Coupe de Monde.

What I can remember in terms of images, Park Ji-Sung scoring a late game winner against Portugal, a tense shootout battle against Spain and most imprinted of all, Ahn Jung-Hwan heading the ball into the Italian net in overtime the golden goal winner. I, along with everyone else watching just lost it in a roar heard around the globe. That last image of Ahn has stuck with me. I had a dream about it once several years ago, replayed in a loop.

Something clicked about that goal. It triggered something that took a while to process…

….an excerpt from Confessions of a Gyopo. 

Well that essay gives some background to my journey as the old Tavern owner…

This is just extra, but I didn’t want to go on a nostalgia spree at the expense of this 2014 KNT squad, but for context regarding the Noonchi essay, here’s a clip, cutting between the Korean media covering and moments from the round of 16 Korea v Italy match -with that brilliant golden goal by Ahn.

Quick updates:

    • Gary Monk continues his charm campaign in easing Ki Sung-Yeung back to Swansea. Ki went on loan to Sunderland, a fairly successful 2nd season in the Premiership for the midfielder. The ex Swans defender and now manager went on the record to say if Ki comes back, he can be assured of a significant role with the Welsh club. With a year left on his contract, Ki has some options.
    • Last week, Yonhap news interviewed Han Kook-Young. Along with Ki, Han’s deep mid performance could be vital to Korea’s chances in advancing out of Group H.
    • The KNT made it to Brazil, one of the last few teams to arrive. They had quite a solid reception:





About Roy Ghim 454 Articles
The old Tavern Owner


  1. I know I’ve been talking shit about the Korean team because of their recent performances.
    After watching Brazil v Croatia, I feel like the atmosphere of the WC can lift our team to perform. Just after one game, the excitement has made me forget about the past few months. I really hope it has done the same for our guys. I’ll be cheering for them hardcore. The World Cup has again made me a diehard fan of Korea! Anything can happen now guys

      • Yeah! Think about it. Within 10 minutes, Croatia shocked the world that said Brazil would probably win 3-0. While they didn’t win, they hung with the hosts for the entire match until the ref handed the win to Brazil.
        My point is that nerves can transform any player, for the good or bad.
        Can’t wait to see what happens in Group H!

  2. This is about to get exciting. Cant wait. Hopefully we get our sh*t together by next tuesday and light up the Russians. They aren’t that good, guys.

  3. Not entirely sure about all the “official” ones here in Korea. But from what I’ve read/heard:

    Seoul – Gwanghwamun Gwangjang (광화문광장) with Red Devils cheering squad

    Busan – Haeundae beach

    Also, some CGVs in Seoul, Suwon, Daegu, Daejeon, and Gwangju will show the matches live on movie screens (tickets can be reserved online for 10K won).

  4. Roy, I really loved how you started the piece because it really does remind me of how my happiest football memories spurred me to follow them religiously.

    • Thanks! There’s more to it that I’ll add after it’s officially published. There’s no doubt what an electric moment 2002 was and how many of us are now Taeguk Warrior supporters because of the events of that year

  5. Chicago:

    vs Russia – Grace Church (4000 Capitol Dr. Wheeling, IL)
    vs Algeria – Chicago Sports Complex (2600 W 35th St. Chicago, IL)
    vs Belgium – Chicago Sports Complex (2600 W 35th St. Chicago, IL)

  6. I don’t really have much info on the Canadian front seeing that I live in a quiet Quebec retirement town, but I can say that if you’re in Toronto or Vancouver, your best shots at enjoying the game with Koreans are obviously in their respective Koreatowns. I’m afraid the interwebs don’t shed much light on where exactly to cheer on the Taeguk Warriors.

    • I know they’ve set up big screens beside the CBC building and various locations across Toronto, but that’s not just for Korea but the whole World Cup. Like I said, I don’t really know. Sorry, but your guesses are as good as mine. For example we had the entire World Cup highlights show/Match of the Day/Replays all pushed to 3am last night because of the Hockey Finals which went into double overtime…

      But I’m relieved. They won’t shun Korea out of national broadcasting in Canada now, since the Kings won and Hockey is over. (I think Game 7 was scheduled for Tuesday so) Phew!

      • Good grief, this always happens to me. I’ve given up searching but have a final stab at it. And I found locations in Toronto and Vancouver.

        Toronto : South Korean Canadian Cultural Association – 1133 Leslie St.

        “KCCA is planning to hold a pep rally every match with the super channel, All TV. All participants will be served with free beverages and qualified for the many raffle prizes. Open to entire community. Call at 416-383-0777 for more information”

        Sounds like a rad place to be. As for Vancouver, two locations, the first sounds more promising than the second…

        Vancouver : Kyung Bok Palace

        Traditional Korean restaurant, “head over for some Korean BBQ as the team looks to play spoiler again”, I guess this is a legit location. Seating capacity 250-300, no rsvp required.


        Malone’s Bar and Grill

        608 W Pender St.

      • Oh, unless u meant for AFTER the WC, in which case, yeah, I’m w/ ya, kinda bland.

        Cuz if for this WC, what w/ redesign, approval, production, shipping, & the 1st game in just a few days, ur gonna have sum nekkid footballers. Or maybe that could become a thing, I dunno XD

        • Yes after. To me new sponsorship will signify a new train of thought by KFA, which I can’t stand. A canary in the coal mine if you will. KFA really needs to quit being so stubborn. I wouldn’t mind going with the new kids, UnderArmor. Id love to go with Puma but our guys don’t have the physiques. lol

          I really hate the uniforms that go out of their way to mimic their national flags. Most of the coolest ones out there don’t.

          • pumas have been terrible. nike’s really had the better uniforms in general at this world cup. korea’s is better worn than hung, even though they aren’t really the greatest. I like the concept of their white jerseys, though, but it could use improvement. that said, a couple of espn guys loved korea’s jerseys, for whatever that’s worth. they are a bit heavy on the nike love it seems. i really like the dutch uniform.


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