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June 24, 2006


Scott Wickstein

It was a very good, high tempo game, actually (Korea vs Switzerland), but there was no doubt that Switzerland were the better side. Instead of whingeing, the Koreans might like to ponder the efforts of Phillipe Senderos, and not give away silly goals like they did for the second. Watching them protest the second goal was kind of hilarious.


Speaking of high tempo games, Germany are currently leading a 10-man Swedish side 2-0! England were lucky to have managed to evade a meeting with the Germans at this stage.

João da Costa

What possibilities stand the Ghanians against the Soccer World Power Brazil?


Let's be realistic: the best one can expect is that Ghana only loses to Brazil by a single goal. There's no chance of Ghana (or England, or pretty much anyone but perhaps Argentina) beating a Brazil with Ronaldo and Ronaldinho both in full form.


Somehow I saw this post, and the events prompting it, coming.

I won't mock too much myself, because the Koreans still compare well to some of my compatriots when it comes to dealing with a football tournament loss-

As to the actual football, one of the most noticable things has been the poor performance of North American and Asian teams (Played 24, Won 2, Drawn 7, Lost 15), who have possibly been given too many spots in order for Fifa to guarantee that the world's largest potential markets will be represented.


That English football "fandom" is plagued with an outsized contingent of nationalist, racist thugs is obvious - witness the gift of the word "hooligan" to so many languages. The difference with Korea is that whereas the English thug element is a small percentage of which the majority are deeply ashamed, in Korea the extremely chauvinistic attitude *is* that of the majority, including all the major newspapers and broadcasters; I've been searching in vain so far for evidence that a single Korean media outlet has acknowledged the possibility that the call was rightly made. The one thing I'll concede to the Koreans is that they're not known for following up their chauvinistic bombast with "Firm" style physical violence, not yet at least - though that too may be more a function of the superficial level of interest in football in Korea - K-league attendance is said to be marginal - as well as its being an extremely closed society in which there are few foreigners for disgruntled footie thugs to bash, than anything else.

Won Joon Choe


As usual, I agree with most of your comments on South Korea's sometimes misguided nationalism. In particular, your distinction between South Korean soccer lunacy and English hooliganism is right on: With the English, it's just a small minority of rabid fans; with Korea, it's essentially the whole country raving mad.

As a general matter, I think the problem is twofold:

1. South Korean nationalism is rather all-encompassing and imagines every harmless international competition is matter of life and death nationalistic struggle. It is similar to nineteenth century European nationalism, perhaps minus the military dimension.

2. As many folks who are familiar with Korea have pointed out, the Koreans are an emotional bunch--the Irish of the Far East, as the common analogue goes. I think the British Koreanist Aidan Foster-Carter aptly uses the term "splenetic" to describe Koreans. It's all about the "han," to be slightly facetious.

So this kind of angry explosions are more accepted ways of achieving catharsis in Korea, contrary to a more rationalistic (for a lack of better word) West.

The problem is that people in the West do not see it that way; in the West, aggressive and sometimes violent outbursts of anger is not acceptable. I think this cultural gap between Korea and the Western world in regard to handling one's emotions sometimes create a mis-impression (is that a word? well, as you know, I am a FoB so let it pass) of events in Korea: e.g. anti-Americanism. Of course, anti-Americanism is more intense and widespread in Korea than it was pre-DJ era. I have in fact in print given DJ the mother lode of the blame for fanning it. Nonetheless, anti-Americanism is not quite as virtulent as it is portrayed in the West, and it is certainly not irreversible.

What are the often-used Japanese terms used to distinguish appearance and reality? Tatemae and honne? (I don't speak Japanese so correct me if I am wrong). I think the same contrasting terms can describe Korean emotional outbursts. Of course, the distinction between appearance and reality, or between the surface and the core, whether in the Japanese language or the Straussian lexicon, points to a harmless surface that hides a sinister core. The ironic Korean twist is that the core underneath the surface is rather more benign than the seemingly nefarious surface!

Won Joon Choe

By the way, regarding the Korean media response to what is clearly a non-controversy to me:

I agree and I am disappointed to report that most domestic sources have termed the non-call on the "offside" an egregiously bad call. In fact, I listen to simultaneous radio/television casts, and one Korean radio caster said that it was far worse than the "supposedly" bad calls v. Italy and Spain.

Nonetheless, there have been more honest opinions, albeit few and easily drowned out by the nationalist chorus. SBS's main color commentator agreed that it was a good call on air; and the Chosun dutifully reported that the majority of the foreign press insisted that it was a good call.


"What are the often-used Japanese terms used to distinguish appearance and reality? Tatemae and honne?"

Yes, those are the correct terms.

"The ironic Korean twist is that the core underneath the surface is rather more benign than the seemingly nefarious surface!"

I'd like to think you're right, though what I've read of the treatment of mixed-race people and foreign workers from South-East Asia, as well as such displays of fierce nationalism as occurred in the 1997 crisis (masses of ordinary people lining up to donate their savings for "the country") and Clonegate (women volunteering to donate eggs for the sake of "Korea") suggests that Korean nationalistic rhetoric isn't all smoke without fire. To say that Koreans are more expressive is one thing, but foreigners can't seriously be expected to ignore routinely over-the-top rhetoric of a sort they've already learned the hard way was worth taking at face value elsewhere.

If Koreans are as serious about earning the respect of the world as they profess to be, it's past time they began acting as if they were aware the world's eyes were upon them, and that what supposedly* passes for an acceptable means of obtaining catharsis at home is seen as grossly insulting elsewhere. It is only prudent to assume that Koreans *do* mean it when they say some of the outlandish things which get foreign attention, at least to some degree. Besides which, a very large portion of the misery in this world owes precisely to people acting on raw emotion without thinking things through, so that "Korean Irishness" in itself is something to be worried about.

*Even this I find hard to believe, as the existence of Korean groups like VANK or the activists who attacked Oprah and "Lost" for "unfair" portrayals of Korea shows just how touchy they can be about much milder slights than those they think nothing of dishing out themselves.

Won Joon Choe


I put the qualifier "more" before "benevolent." So I emphasize that the harmlessness I insist at the core of South Korean behavior is only in comparison to the truculence you see on the surface--not that there is no truculence at all. Or to put it another way, South Korea frequently over-reacts to Western slights (or even non-slights), but the Westerners also over-react to that over-reaction.

I know that you are an avid reader of the Marmot (and deservedly so), but I think a good counterpoint is Kushibo's Blog, whose views often square with mine, except that he is at times too apologetic of Korean behavior.

For instance, I can't believe all this Western rhetoric about how South Korea has gone irreversibly Left (along with the emergence of the fictitious 386 generation as a dominant voting bloc) when the Left's victories in the 1997 and 2002 elections were almost solely due to the Right's inability to field a single candidate (thanks Rhee In-je and Jung Mong-joon). South Korean government, for a variety of reasons including political culture and state-control or virtual control of many organs of the media, possesses enormous powers of indoctrination for a "liberal democracy," and a Lee Myung-bak victory in the 2007 election could turn the country dramatically around ideologically.

Actually, let me correct that: It would reflect South Korea's actual ideological climate, something that has been obscured by elections that were won by less popular political factions.

As for the paragraph below, I could not have said it better:

"If Koreans are as serious about earning the respect of the world as they profess to be, it's past time they began acting as if they were aware the world's eyes were upon them, and that what supposedly* passes for an acceptable means of obtaining catharsis at home is seen as grossly insulting elsewhere. It is only prudent to assume that Koreans *do* mean it when they say some of the outlandish things which get foreign attention, at least to some degree."

But in their defense, the Koreans have been a rather insular people throughout its history, esp. during the Yi dynasty immediately preceding the modern times and the initial integration to the global community is expected to be fitful. It's a long way from Yi Ha-ung ("Dae-won-goon")'s swae-gook jung-chaek ("closed door policy") to Kim Young-sam's seh-geh-hwa ("globalization"), and I hope the Korean do complete the journey within a reasonable time.


"I think a good counterpoint is Kushibo's Blog"

I *have* read him occasionally, and even linked to him once or twice, but on the whole I find that the rather dogmatic nature of the opinions he freely expresses elsewhere dulls any interest I might have in finding out what he's writing on his own blog, his complete missing of the point on The Marmot's Hole with regard to my post on British atrocities in Kenya being a case in point. As you yourself noted, "he is at times too apologetic of Korean behavior", and if that means finding reasons to continue to bash Japan for sins no worse than those committed by many other countries, or writing as if the kooks at VDare are some sort of American equivalent to Korean government-issued textbooks depicting black savages with bones in their noses

then that is what he will do. I find that with the likes of the Lost Nomad, the Korea Liberator, the Asia Pages and many other writers I don't have to keep watching for the hidden apologetic agenda in reading what they have to say, so when they *do* have positive or exculpatory things to say I'm much readier to believe them.


Hey - did anybody catch the wave of "I dont even know where Ghana is" "Where the hell is Ghana" "What the heck is a Ghana" "Ghana is not Gonna Win" reportage after and before USA's loss to Ghana? I was very suprised at the on screen churlishness of a lot of the commentators on ESPN and other networks.

On the other note, about Korean attitudes, I think what Korea needs is immigration (and more emigration). Lots of it. Historical empirics show that boorish nationalist attitudes of this sort simply do not change in the absence of vocal minorities which serve as social consciences and whistle blowers. Didnt happen for the English, the Americans, Continental Europeans - and it barely happened for the Japanese, certainly hasnt happened for Indians or Middle Easterners or Chinese, etc without this element. Tho' the levels of nationalist fervor in a lot of these regions dont exactly match the Korean record, and it doesnt seem like there is a lot of market pull for immigrants in Korea.

Won Joon Choe


As you noted yourself, I said Kushibo sometimes goes overboard in his apology of Korean misbehavior. But it's difficult to be completely impartial if you are Korean or afficiando of Korean things. Nonetheless, in Kushibo's defense, he has tackled some controversial topics and come down against the knee-jerk Korean consensus, even when it comes to Korea-Japan controversies:

In addition, I think he is relatively unique among the ex-pat Bloggers in that he seems to have an academic expertise in Korean studies and is not someone who learned about Korean affairs after going over there.

As for other Korean Blogs you list, I heartily recommend the Korea Liberator as well. The site owners are very knowledgeable; they are also gentlemen as well--which is sometimes an overlooked virtue in the world of the intellectual joust. In fact, a lot of friends ask me for Korea Blog recommendations, and I give them a short list of 2 or the long list of 5: The Korea Liberator is on the short list of 2.

I've never been to Asia Pages; is it a Korea-centered Blog or Asia-centered Blog?

By the way, I don't know the debate you had with Kushibo on the Marmot; can you link me the debate? I've been severely ill for the last 3-4 months, so if the exchange took place during that time, I would likely have missed it--as I was almost entirely bed-ridden for during that time.

The Marmot

If I might be able to point out another fine counterpoint to my drivel is Orackay's blog:

Or at least it is when he posts---which is, unfortunately, not often enough.

As far as South Korea going irreversibly Left, I definitely don't believe that to be the case, as the 2007 elections might very well prove. Now, that being said, if the election reversals of 1997 and 2002 (and the subsequent general election) suffered by the right were due to the inability of the right to field single candidates and the ill-advised impeachment of President Roh, the impending victory of the Right in 2007 will be helped a great deal by the fact that the Uri Party has become a disaster that would be hard-pressed to field a viable candidate. Given what it's running against, I wouldn't necessarily say a GNP victory in 2007 represented a rightward shift in the Korean body politic.

But that's just my ill-informed opinion.

BTW, sorry to hear you were ill, Mr. Choe. I hope you have fully recovered.

Won Joon Choe

Mr. Koehler,

I agree that Orankay's Blog can be an excellent counterpoint to yours. Nonetheless, as you pointed out, he seldom posts any more; he certainly doesn't post as frequently as he used to, say, 2 years ago. That's unfortunate. Further, Oranckay's pronouncements can be, shall I say?, at times over-the-top. Of course, I won't press the point too energetically, as that would be an egregious case of pot calling kettle black.

For the record: when I recommended Kushibo's Blog as a good "counterpoint" to yours, and emphasized in particular that he doesn't buy into the 386 generation revolution nonsense, I did not mean to imply that you are a captive of that nonsense. So no clarification was needed. All I wanted to suggest is that Kushibo has debunked that nonsense most frequently and forcefully among the ex-pat Bloggers I read.

As for whether Lee Myung-bak or Park Geun-hye's victory in 2007 represents a conservative realignment, I said that it would reflect the true ideological climate rather than a ideological re-realignment. As I think I cited in my debate with Joshua Stanton at the Korea Liberator a while ago, the exit polls I've looked at at the end of the last few presidential elections indicate no serious ideological realignment to the Left, and those who identify themselves as conservatives still out-number those who identify themselves as progressives.

Having said that, however, I don't think a conservative victory in 2007 is a foregone conclusion, though likely--in spite of the total disarray of the Uri. I wouldn't be surprised if Lee and Park run separate candidacies if one of them is not elected as the official Han-na-ra candidate; in fact, Lee has already threatened to do so, and Park has a history of bolting parties to do her own thing. The candidacy of Goh Kun could also introduce a Jung Mong-joon-type of element to the mix.

Finally, by downplaying the leftward shift in South Korean politics, I don't mean to say that the South Korea today is a perfect simulacrum of, say, the South Korea of 1987. Two consecutive Leftist administrations have made their imprints on the public consciousness and shifted some of the terms of the debate in favor of the Left. All I am trying to say is that reports of a Leftward lurch is greatly exaggerated, and to the extent that there has been such a lurch, it isn't so deep-rooted and hence not irreversible.

Won Joon Choe


Speaking of the Korean penchant for not "meaning what they say," here's a tragi-comic story I heard on local Korean radio that relates to it.

A Korean mother of two recently committed suicide in New York. Her husband was arrested because he claimed that he heard her threatening to kill herself but never reported the behavior. (I am not sure why this would be a crime, but I am not a criminal lawyer.)

Now, here's the relevant part. Apparently, one of his main defenses will be that Koreans say many things without really meaning it when angry. In particular, "I am going to kill myself" is a common refrain among angry Koreans. So the husband had no reason to think his wife was being serious!

As bizarre as this defense sounds, I think many who are intimate with Korean culture will see the logic here.

Won Joon Choe

By the way, even Advocaat said the offside non-call was a CORRECT decision.

Was this ever stressed or even reported in the Korean press?


One can only hope that the dirty, cheating and crying Portugese are eliminated as soon as possible. Even if it means I have to temporarily support England, whose fans whin(g)e even more than the Koreans.

Won Joon Choe

I thought the Dutch were more culpable than the Portuguese.

And I am in particular sickened by Van Basten. This is a superstar (the greatest striker I've ever seen) whose career was victimized by and ended by the constant foul play of cynical defenders--something that he tirelessly complained about as well.

And then this? Disgusting hypocrite.


"including all the major newspapers and broadcasters; I've been searching in vain so far for evidence that a single Korean media outlet has acknowledged the possibility that the call was rightly made"

The commentator in one of the three national TV channels, SBS, noted that the second Swiss goal was not an offside (from a Chosun Ilbo article which points out problems of partiality in the MBC broadcast of the Switzerland vs. Ukraine game, in which the commentators openly rooted for Ukraine...)

Won Joon Choe


Thanks much for that article. I am a fairly regular reader of the Chosun (in Korean), and I missed it. Nonetheless, I don't think it invalidates Abiola's general point about the South Korean media. Perhaps more germane, it is ironic (and perhaps even hypocritical) that Chosun to highlight both nationalistic and biased coverage of the World Cup, given that on today's online edition of Chosun include article headers such as:

스위스 '또 손으로 축구' 하고도 8강 탈락 '쓴맛'

("Switzerland again plays soccer with the hand...")

한국 묘하게 이긴 스위스, 승부차기에 울다

("Switzerland, after beating Korea mysteriously...")

Won Joon Choe

Hope this scan shot (reported in the Korean media) proves that Frei was NOT offside and end this nonsense:

Won Joon Choe

An unsurprising turn of events. It appears that the lone "objective" color commentator who said Frei was NOT offside was fired by the SBS due to public pressure:

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