World Cup madness is upon us, and Audrey intern Han Cho gives us a firsthand look at some of the most rabid of its fans — Korean Americans.
“There’s blood,” my friend Carolyn said to me.
I looked around me, and I had to agree.
We were at Wilshire Park Place Radio Korea for the Korea vs. Argentina FIFA World Cup game in the heart of K-Town with several hundred other Koreans. Every single one of us was wearing her colors proud: Korea reds and blues.
Although we were a continent and an ocean away from where the FIFA World Cup was actually taking place, a solid turnout of Koreans from Los Angeles and its surrounding counties had gathered together at 4 am to cheer the South Korean team on. And without a doubt, gatherings like this were taking place all over the world. My friend Carolyn was exactly right. This was blood. This was more than getting together with a bunch of friends and driving to L.A. late at night to grab a few beers while watching the game. It was about supporting your blood, your nation.
I don’t mean to get nationalistic or anything. And believe me, I am one of very few Korean Americans who is not a diehard Korean. National pride, school pride. It’s not my thing. If anything, I am more Californian than Korean. But that night, I got a taste of what it meant to be proud of your ethnicity
There were Koreans. I nearly had an aneurysm. They. Were. EVERYWHERE. In the streets, in the surrounding Denny’s, Starbucks, and Ralph’s. Some were driving, some were walking. On stage, in front of the stage, backstage. Most of them had already found a spot to sit before the huge flat screen TV projector thing to watch the dancers and singers entertain the crowd before the game started, to get the people going. And when the game did start, more and more people gathered, packed nearly on top of each other to encourage the players with words of encouragement
“DAE HAN MIN GOOK!!” my friends and I screamed and clapped with a bunch of dudes we had just met. Whether you were 6 and had no idea what was going on or you were an ajushi (middle-aged man) chilling on the outskirts smoking a stoge, or you were me, a newcomer to the idea of being an “-an” (in my case a Korean), we were united together as we cheered when great passes and blocks were made, or as we cheered even harder when things weren’t going as well.
When the final score was posted, we all glumly headed back to our cars as the sun broke over the buildings, and we squinted our way back to parking lots. We had rejoiced together, and now we were mourning together.
But no worries. We’d back. In five days. Cheering our team on, harder than ever.
– Han Cho