Korean Press and Local Reactions (update 1)

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).

Fans throw yeot at the players. Photo courtesy of OSEN.
Fans throw yeot at the players. Photo courtesy of OSEN.
Fans display at banner when the team returned to Korea. Photo courtesy of OSEN.
Fans display at banner when the team returned to Korea. Photo courtesy of OSEN.

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.

Hong Myeong-Bo

“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.”

Hong Myeong-Bo speaks to the press at Incheon airport. Photo courtesy of Yonhap News.
Hong Myeong-Bo speaks to the press at Incheon airport. Photo courtesy of Yonhap News.


Son Heung-Min

“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.”

Son Heung-Min speaks to the press after arriving in Korea. Photo courtesy of OSEN.
Son Heung-Min speaks to the press after arriving in Korea. Photo courtesy of OSEN.


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.

About Jae Chee 339 Articles
A football fan who got bit by the writing bug.


  1. Thank you for posting this article, quite interesting.

    I am Korean-American and very proud to be Korean, but these people (haters at the airport) need a life. South Korea has far greater social, military, economic issues than World Cup soccer. I love the KNT (Korean National Team) but the KNT does not trump education, employment, health, and family. These players already feel bad enough and with military service looming over most of their heads, these “fans” should be ashamed of themselves.

    Top three reasons why we did poorly (in my opinion)

    1.) Poor defense, ’nuff said.
    2.) No senior leadership on the team. Perhaps having Cha Du Ri and Lee Yong would have helped, God only knows.
    3.) Coaching. Changing your coach like changing socks is not the way to approach a long term success in World Cup. As many people have stated, pick a coach and stick with him at least 2 years. It’s like picking a wife–do your homework, pick wisely, and stick with it.

    Thanks for this website, truly a tavern for us men to have a drink and share.

    • I’ve always wanted Korea to hire Bob Bradley, with his WC experience in 2010 & being short of taking Egypt to the WC in 2014… I think he has the mentality to make our team physically & mentally stronger…… I’d love to see him build our team for the 2018 WC……

      • The international names that excites you guys are…Bob Bradley and Carlos Quieroz? I don’t understand.

        Bradley’s greatest achievements are coaching USA, and nearly qualifying with Egypt and managing a Norwegian side. Nobody outside of USA rates him at all (if they even know who he is).

        And Quieroz has 0.0% chance of being the Korean manager. Not after all that bad blood against Korea in qualifying.

  2. Only in Korea do people throw candy at players as an insult.

    I feel bad for the players as human beings but I’m mad at select few as players. But would I assault them with delicious candy? Nah.

      • It started in the 60’s because of a test question about how yeot was made. Two of the answers were technically correct, but the Education ministry only accepted one. Parents/students who answered the other protested by throwing the candy at officials and yelling ‘eat yeot’ (엿 먹어라) at them.

        • !! 4 real?! That’s actually pretty freakin cool Lol! I could so picture my mom gettin in on that xD

          Reminds me of when a friend told me the origin of “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge”; by law u couldn’t make fun of the English king 4 being a hound dog. Turns out he was wrong, but still:

          Btw, the etymological description of “fuck” is pretty hilarious, how its all clinical & shit xP

  3. Whoa, chucking stuff @ people? That’s too much, man, just infantile. It’s like, yeah it’s disappointing, but that’s no call to go all baboon on sumbody O.o xP

    • those ‘fans’ that went all ape shit on the KNT —that’s fucking bush league. I’m paraphrasing Asian Football feast twitter (in a twitter-sation with Jae) -re: korean football is dead…What? Harsh. Korea may have exited but they didn’t play that bad – not enough to warrant that sign.

      Talk about lack of perspective…

      • We played poorly, but not to the level that we need to assault our KNT players. How did those people not get hauled away by security?

        If we lost 5-0 in all our games then I’d perhaps start to think about thinking about understanding why they’d throw stuff at the KNT. We didn’t play *that* bad.

        I mean come on. I feel bad for some of the players especially Son. He looks so sad in that photo, but he had a pretty good World Cup.

  4. I’m just curious. Why are these douschebags wasting their time to make a sign and go to the Incheon airport just to protest a football team? Don’t they have… ya know… a life? A job? I’m just picturing it: “Um, excuse me boss, I can’t go to work today. I’m gonna go throw 엿 because I’m sad that we’re out of the World Cup.”
    Look, I’m just as disappointed about our exit, but…. wow. Get a life!! Those losers are more of a disgrace to Korea than the team, that’s for damn sure.

    • I imagine it’s more rhetorical, but the Korean team arrived very early in the morning (I think around 5AM or so), so they most likely didn’t need to miss any work to go insult them. It’s the dark side of Korea’s patriotism, Korea’s poor showing (arguably the worst in Asia and one of the worst of all 32 teams) reflects badly on the country as a whole. I don’t agree with their actions of course.

        • Nope, sorry. Can’t c any justification for throwing anything @ any1, aimed @ heads or no. Unless u wanna cause bodily harm &/or instigate violence.

          This is a breakdown in basic decency. I got problems w/ certain aspects of Korean culture (honestly, who the world over doesn’t have sum beefs w/ their own cultures?), but Korean politeness/courtesy isn’t 1 of’em. & that admirable etiquette was nowhere 2 b found here 🙁

      • Ok but ‘the death of Korean football’? Come on. That’s fucking absurd. I’m still appalled at the ‘airport fans’. Where do they get off? These are the same yokels that thought so highly of Korean football that they know of course that KLeague games are always packed and well attended. So are the Asian champions league games. And 2+2=5. But whatevs. No way around the fact there will always be punk ass mofos wanting their 15 min of fame in this world hanging around airport lobbies carrying on nonsense about the death of Korean football -in the very same World Cup that saw Spain, Italy, England, Japan and Portugal also exit early. And how about this for perspective, Germany Struggled mightily with Algeria in the 2nd round. Korea didn’t just lose to a bunch of bitches. And how’s this: Korea scored more in 45 minutes during regulation time against Algeria than the vaunted German machine was able to today in Porto Allegre.

        • So are we admitting Algeria are a superior team to us Korea? The same Korea that defeated Spain, Italy, tied France? Korea is a team that causes upsets as a tradition, a team that is more of a team than other teams. And this Korea struggled against other sides weaker than us. If you look at Russia, Algeria, 10 man Belgium, clearly Korea is capable of taking them all down. But we didn’t. And Spain, Italy, England, and Portugal, even Japan went down in farther difficult groups than our own Group H. So I guess I don’t know what I am trying to say, I’m not trying to argue with yall or anything. I guess I’m trying to say that the airport fans have a reason to be so disappointed to throw 엿 and stuff, it really is to be expected.

  5. Going to the airport at 5 am with a big sign that they made? Wow… to me, you just made these “fans” seem like even bigger losers. But yeah, I get your point. I know that’s what they consider “patriotism”

    • Not condoning their actions, but I feel the need to raise this point. Are the “fans” that went with signs in support of the team “losers”? Are they losers because of the way they acted or because they cared enough to act? We may not agree with the actions (candy throwing specifically), but the sentiment behind them is common, even here on this site. How many people cursed Jung Sung-Ryong, Koo Ja-Cheol, and Park Chu-Young? How many laid the blame on Hong Myeong-Bo’s lack of tactics and ideas? How many called the team a disgrace after Algeria and Belgium? Are the keyboard warriors who attacked Jung SR on Twitter any better/worse than the ones at the airport?

      • Yes, they absolutely are losers. The keyboard warrior types who hide behind their computer and attack people on twitter are losers too.

        We can critique the players’ performances but plainly cursing them is unacceptable. Showing up to the airport for this sort of nonsense is childish and pathetic.

        • I’ve probably been following Italian football too long/much where this kind of thing happens regularly, so I’ve become a bit immune to it.

          Anyway, my point was that I’m having a bit of a ‘people in glass houses’ moment. A lot of people who were cursing (not critiquing) the players here, on Twitter, and other places are now very high and mighty about these bad people who brought a banner to the airport which really didn’t say much of anything.

          • Come on… these are two completely different responses.

            1) You can be disappointed about the team’s performance and want them to make the changes to get better in the future. Who doesn’t? Yes, the goalkeeper must change and the defense must get better. I think I’m perfectly within my right as a fan to hope for that. I think this site serves as a place to vent. That’s what we’re here for, right? We want the team to improve and get better.


            2) You can go to the airport at 5 in the morning and throw stuff at players and yell and make a public spectacle like a child.

            Come on… one of these is completely legitimate, and the other is absolute bullshit. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. These guys are athletes. They didn’t commit a crime for losing. Why are people treating it like it’s something more serious than it is?

            If I was somebody who complained about their performance, then I admit it. I had every right to, and any fan would do that. But I would never try to publicly shame anyone. I wouldn’t even get on twitter to attack any of them either. I hope nobody who comments here would ever do that. The most I would do is complain amongst like-minded fans, and go about my day.

            Every person I know in Korea who doesn’t like football is completely embarrassed by this incident. And they should be. I was upset when they lost, but I feel even worse looking at their faces when the 엿 is headed their way.
            And if that’s how it’s done in Italy, well I guess I’d never be able to live there because I’d think everyone is a moron for overreacting.

          • I’m not comparing your #1 with your #2. I’m comparing your #2 with people who do the same thing on the internet. It’s perfectly fine to lament poor defending/attacking, etc.

            I don’t condone/accept/like/think it was okay that they threw stuff at the players. There is a line, and they crossed it there. I won’t go into it more on the comments because they’re likely becoming impossible to read. I’ll put up a post later. We can continue our discussion there.

          • I hear ya, I think we’re on the same page. Honestly, I was pretty upset about the loss, and I thought maybe I’d be happy if they got a negative response. How wrong was I. Seeing these pics/videos made me feel a lot worse.

          • I see what you’re saying.

            1) I think cursing (not critiquing) players on sites like this is better in the sense that it’s largely harmless because the players won’t see it. However in principle it’s cowardly to make personal attacks behind someone’s back on the internet.

            2) Cursing a player on twitter is cowardly and sort of harmful.

            3) Cursing someone in person is in principle less cowardly than doing it on the internet, but is most offensive to the players and is by far the most childish and distasteful action. So in terms of degree it’s the worst of all three.

            So glass houses? Sort of. But it doesn’t matter – I don’t like anyone who partakes in any of the above.

            The players know they messed up. We all know Korea needs to make some changes in order to improve. But I’ll never trash any member of our beloved Taeguk Warriors even when they fail (except in case of poor effort). I think of Son HM in tears and I think of these losers at the airport who probably weren’t good enough for the middle school team and I’m angry.

          • For me numbers 1-3 are essentially the same. Anyway (again) I’m not talking about the people who critiqued the players, I’m talking about the people who called the team “disgraceful” and who were “embarrassed that they represented Korea”. Anyway post coming, I’ll be clearer there.

          • Jon-
            You may think its idiotic but its reactions like these that get the attention of KFA….not your passive options.

          • And your friends who don’t follow football…dont fall anywhere near this equation so you can leave them out of this.

  6. Haha PJY and JSR trying to hide out of site. Also PCY’s reaction to the thrown candy is hilarious, like “omona!”.

  7. I respectfully disagree. I’m glad that people threw 엿 at the players, it shows that Korea cares about the team. What would be worse than insulting the team would be showing indifference towards the team. Imagine if no one cared about the team’s performance. At least throwing 엿 will motivate them to do better next time. And, while insulting the team isn’t a good way to show caring for the team, there should be insults and 엿 and exaggerating banners as the team severely underperformed this world cup, and they deserve it. Let’s hope we bring good results for this new cycle so that 엿 and insults turns into confetti and cheers. You may quote me for that last line.

      • In my opinion, I don’t think saying to the NT ‘엿먹어라’ is a good thing. I feel that it’s rude and highly demoralising, and that there are more civil ways to express disappointment than saying ‘f*** you’.

Join in the Tavern's conversations -Leave a comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.