It’s More Than a Game

Many of my readers in the U.S. may not realize it, but the biggest sporting event on the planet is going on right now in South Africa. It’s the FIFA World Cup; the ultimate in football, or as we in the U.S. call it, soccer. Football, 축구 (chuggu) in Korean, is huge just about everywhere but the United States. But recently I’ve realized that really, it’s more than just a game.

South Korea had its first match this past Saturday and the game started early where we live. But we were all up to cheer on the Fighting Tigers, and were thrilled to see them win 2-0 over Greece. Our son has a poster of Park Ji-Sung, the Korean footballer who also plays for Manchester United, in his room, so he enjoyed getting to see him play.

As I watched our son following the game, I realized how wonderful it was for him to be seeing sports figures who look like he does. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine yourself aspiring to a goal unless you can see someone you connect with accomplishing a similar goal. Being Asian growing up in America, our son doesn’t get to see a lot of sports figures who resemble him.

But recently I realized the importance of following the World Cup on a whole other level too. This event is such a big deal in Korea that what happens in it becomes part of the national consciousness. We found this recently while watching the Korean drama, I Really, Really Like You. When one of the characters felt she was being treated unfairly, she compared the person doling out the treatment to a “World Cup Argentinian ref.”

While I’m sure most Koreans understood the reference, I had to look it up. The slight happened at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and involved referee Horacia Elizondo, who allowed a goal by Switzerland that the Korean team and fans felt shouldn’t have been allowed. I found the information on Wikipedia and found this interesting:

Elizondo’s decisions have caused anger among Koreans, many of whom sent e-mails of protest to the official FIFA website. FIFA decided to take the strong step of blocking Korean Internet access to its website due to receiving too many protest e-mails from Korea. FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola said “FIFA’s new media department detected this organized attack coming from Korea and, basically, had to block the messages from Korea to fifa.com to protect the Web site.” In addition, many Koreans have left negative comments on the website of the Swiss embassy in Korea, and one man has been arrested for threatening to bomb the Swiss embassy in Seoul.

While I might not condone such actions, these reactions show how seriously Koreans take the World Cup, and how much a part of the national consciousness this game and this event are. And that’s when I realized that for our son, the World Cup is another way to be connected to his birth culture.

My husband and I are not Korean American and so we’ll never be able to raise our son the same way a Korean American family would. But we feel we must try to give him all the advantages we can, such as learning the language, having friends/mentors who are Korean, and watching soccer (which for our family isn’t a chore, because we LOVE soccer). Hopefully the more ways we find to connect him to the Korean/Korean American culture, the less divide he’ll find with the community as he grows.

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My Korean Culture Blog

Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

Favorite Korean Movies-TV Shows

Be Strong, Geum-Soon
Please Teach Me English
Spy Girl
Tae Gu Ki
2009 Lost Memories

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2worlds1familyblog at gmail dot com

It’s a Small World After All

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