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A History of Football in North and South Korea c.1910–2002

Development and Diffusion


Jong Sung Lee

For the Koreans, no sport has surpassed football in terms of its popularity and national importance, from the Japanese colonization era onwards. However, its importance has developed over time as a result of unusual and agonizing historical events, including the tragic split between North and South Korea.
This volume attempts to assess football’s changing political and cultural place in Korea over the course of the twentieth century, from the Japanese colonial period via the Korean War to the end of the Cold War. It analyses the development and diffusion of football in North and South Korea from the following angles: nationalism and regionalism, internationalism and globalism, patronage, and the Korean style of play.
It particularly concentrates on the social meanings of the North Korean «miracle» in the 1966 World Cup and of South Korea’s success in the 2002 tournament. The author shows that football in Korea has not only reflected changes in Korean society but helped to shape those changes.
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Chapter 4: The decline of the North and the rise of the South, 1974–91


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The decline of the North and the rise of the South, 1974–91

The keen economic and diplomatic rivalry between the North and South turned into a runaway victory for the capitalist South in the 1980s. It was in this period that the world became especially aware of the South Korea’s ‘economic miracle’. In terms of ‘economic globalization’, as Eric Hobsbawm has argued, the advance of the South Korean economy was a perfect example of the process of rapid industrialization which brought countries once regarded as belonging to the ‘Third World’ in line with the ‘First World’.1 The staging of the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988 underlined South Korea’s new status in the global economy and the international recognition that it now enjoyed. While this was happening North Korea slipped backwards and was increasingly seen from outside as an impoverished economy and an unpredictable and potentially dangerous totalitarian regime prepared to engage in various acts of state-sponsored terrorism. In 1983, during a state visit to Burma, seventeen high-ranking officials died when a bomb planted by North Korean army captains was detonated.2 In 1987 another bomb exploded on Korean Air Lines flight 858 claiming 115 lives. It seems likely that these atrocities were the North Korean regime’s way of responding to the enhanced economic and political status of South Korea, especially after the decision in 1981 to award the 1988 Olympic Games to Seoul. Oberdorfer has argued that the aim of...

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