This will be a short post, but some have asked for coverage on how the Korean media and local fans have reacted to the early and humiliating exit from the World Cup. The team arrived in Korea this morning (Monday, June 30) at Incheon International Airport.
P.S. If you follow my Twitter account (@KoreaChukGu) this is all repeat from tweets I posted.
The main thing that happened was some disgruntled fans threw 엿 사탕 (a sweet taffy-like candy) at the players and coaches. Some supposedly yelled “엿 먹어라” (eat some yeot) at them as well. The phrase basically means ‘fuck you’. Other fans held a banner for a Daum cafe called ‘너땜에 졌어’ (because of you we lost). The banner also read “한국축구는 죽었다” (Korean football is dead). Reports said that the banner was aimed at Hong Myeong-Bo. Conversely there, reportedly, were people there chanting ‘괜찮아’ (it’s okay) in support of the team (mainly female fans).
One of the people who threw candy at the players spoke to the media. He told reporters
“We threw the candy because they [the national team] screwed us. We need to totally reform Korean football from the beginning. They run the team like the mafia. The coach favored the particular players that he likes and some of the players were selected because they went to the same university as the coach. I can’t see a difference between the coach and members of the ‘gwanfia.”
– Cho Ho-Yeon
The man in the above quote is a member of the online group mentioned earlier. The group at the time of the incident had 500 members (according to Cho), but now (a day later) has over 4,000.
The term ‘gwanfia’ is a combination of the Korean word for government official (관리/gwanri) and the word ‘mafia’. It’s used to describe the system of officials favoring people/players from their university or people they like (through bribery, past associations, etc.). It’s been a little bit of a buzz word the past year. I first heard of it when there was an investigation into Korea’s speedskating federation before the Olympics. The head of the federation was found to have selected skaters from his alma mater for the team and to have ordered skaters to help those from his university win in team events. Skater Ahn Hyun-Soo (Viktor Ahn) is the most high-profile “victim” of this favortism. The word also came up during the aftermath of the Sewol tragedy, used to describe the lax regulating of industries by people who used to be a part of that industry.
The above situation seems to sum up how people here are reacting. Essentially the split seems to depend on what the person considers to be the most important thing. The ones who are angry are looking at the results/performances. The ones who are more openly supportive are looking at the effort. The only other ‘incident’ like this that I’ve heard of was on Twitter. Jung Sung-Ryong posted a picture of himself on the plane back to Korea, and several netizens left angry comments on it (the picture has been deleted).
Hong Myeong-Bo, Son Heung-Min, and Koo Ja-Cheol all spoke to the press after arriving in Incheon. I’ve included the quotes in Korea from Hong and Son as my Korean is not great. I think I’ve gotten the gist of what they were saying, but if anyone wants to contribute a better translation feel free too.
“월드컵 기간 국민 여러분께서 성원을 보내주셨는데 보답하지 못해 죄송하게 생각한다 . . . 제가 부족해 성적을 내지 못했지만 우리 선수들에게는 아직 미래가 있는 만큼 남는 것이 있는 대회가 될 수 있을 것 . . . 지금 이야기하기는 좀 그렇다 . . . 비행기를 오래 타고 와 피곤하기도 하고 정신이 없다.”
“During the World Cup everyone gave us support, but I wasn’t able to repay it, and feel sorry about that . . . I wasn’t good enough and we didn’t get the results, but all the players still have bright future left . . . It’s not time for that conversation now [his future with NT] . . . The flight was long and I’m exhausted.”
“엿을 먹어야 하나요 . . . 선수, 코칭 스태프 그리고 팬들 모두 생각은 똑같을 것이다. 경기가 끝나고 난 후 선수들 모두 특별하게 이야기를 한 것은 없다 . . . 개인적인 시간을 가지고 생각을 많이 했다. 너무 슬펐다. 대한민국 선수로 월드컵에 나가서 좋은 성적을 내지 못해 책임감을 느끼고 있다. 선수들 모두 그렇게 생각하고 있다. 생각할 시간이 필요했다.”
“Should I eat one candy? . . . The players, coaches, staff and fans all have the same thoughts. When the game finished, all the players had no words . . . I’ve had some personal time and I’ve had many thoughts. I am very sad. We didn’t get good results and so we are out, and I feel responsible for that. We all have that thought. We needed time to think.”
I’m not including Koo Ja-Cheol’s quotes because, quite frankly, they’re not that interesting. In short, Koo seemed a bit more defensive, talking about how the team didn’t have enough time to prepare together and that they must learn lessons from this for the next time.
As for the mass media, reports and articles have generally been fairly muted and calm. I suspect they are partially waiting for Hong and the KFA to announce whether Hong will continue on as manager or if they hire someone new. That being said, the articles that have come out generally have taken a softer stance on Hong. Most (although I haven’t read them all) seem to feel he should be allowed to continue through the Asian Cup if he wants to. I have yet to see one that has openly called for his head or any player in particular.
Perhaps more will come in the coming days as Hong makes up his mind and the KFA announces whatever they feel the need to.