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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 5: ‘1966 Again’: The two Koreas and the 2002 World Cup, 1992–2002


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‘1966 Again’: The two Koreas and the 2002 World Cup, 1992–2002

The idea of Japan and South Korea co-hosting the 2002 World Cup finals emerged from the politics of the bidding process. It had seemed certain at first that the tournament would be hosted by Japan alone but the internal politics of FIFA created a situation which forced the Japanese to compromise at the eleventh hour.1 Competition to stage the first World Cup finals to be held in Asia was so intense that it threatened to damage diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea. Japanese football officials were generally opposed to the idea of co-hosting, though some politicians were in favour. Initially, public opinion in South Korea, where Japan had been hitherto viewed as an arch-rival rather than as a potential partner, also suggested that co-hosting was unacceptable. Once FIFA had made the decision, however, it was generally welcomed and viewed as a diplomatic victory in South Korea, whereas in Japan the outcome was seen as an embarrassment.

The public reaction to the World Cup coming to South Korea was euphoric and it was seen as an event which had great symbolic significance both within and beyond the football world. Enthusiastic support for the national team in front of gigantic public screens turned the streets into football stadiums. This nationwide phenomenon was portrayed as providing evidence that South Korea had overcome the IMF (International Monetary Fund) crisis that...

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