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  2002 World Cup
By Audrey

History was created in the world of soccer when the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) announced to the world that the next World Cup would be hosted by two countries. The 2002 World Cup Korea-Japan would be held in Asia for the first time, with the opening match held in Korea and the final match and closing ceremonies in Japan.

Both countries deserve the honor and privilege of hosting the world's most popular sporting event. Japan promises state-of-the-art facilities while South Korea presents itself as a soccer-loving nation with past experiences in hosting the 1988 Olympic Games. FIFA concluded that to choose one over the other would cause too much disappointment. Hence, a change in rules resulted in two countries hosting the cup. The event is expected to attract 4 million spectators and 40 billion television viewers in 2002.

The 2002 World Cup gives both Japan and South Korea the chance to put away their historical rivalries and work together toward "a new era of harmony". It also gives North and South Korea the opportunity to create a joint soccer team. The South Korean Football Association has been given permission to discuss joint team propositions with Pyongyang. Together with FIFA and Japan, South Korea has also been trying to induce North Korea to co-host the game, in hopes of achieving the early reunification of North and South Korea.

South Korea is determined to turn the World Cup into a great success despite the current Asian financial crisis. Currently, a new stadium is being built in the Sangam district of western Seoul especially for the event. This would be the location for the game's opening ceremonies and semi-final matches.

The Korean people would not settle for anything less for their beloved sport. A former plan to merely renovate the Chamsil Olympic Stadium was strongly opposed. Polls showed that 60 percent of the people are for the new stadium, which is a grand multipurpose building with the ability to seat 65,000 people as well as house a driving range and other recreational facilities. This project will cost the South Korean government a hefty bill of 200 billion Won. However, there is a possibility for foreign sponsorship that is worth USD$100 million. The stadium would then be named after the sponsoring company for the duration of the 2002 World Cup.

In preparation for the mammoth task ahead, the 2002 World Cup Organization Committee in Seoul has made detailed arrangements, which include an advisory committee that is headed by Seoul's vice mayor, Kim Hak-jae. The latter is in charge of setting up a consortium for the design and construction of the stadium, a task made easy again with the experience earned from hosting the 1988 Olympic Games. This time, the plan is to build 10 new stadiums in Seoul, Suwon, Inchon, Taejon, Taegu, Chonju, Kwangju, Ulsan, Pusan and Sogwipo. Earlier reports claimed that the financial crisis at hand might cause some cutback from ten cities to seven or eight. However, the last report dated August 14, 1999 had confirmed that all 10 stadiums would be used and 16 cities have already applied for the venue. The final venues may still change, as plans are pending participation from North Korea. For example, plans for a 65,000-seat stadium in Duksom on the northern shore of the Han River were cancelled after deciding not to hold the World Cup in the city. Furthermore, the contractor experienced financial difficulties and could not complete the project.

On the game front, Korea has reasons to be proud. In the 1998 World Cup in France, Korea qualified for the game by winning the first place in the World Cup Asian Group B finals (6 victories, 1 tie, and 1 defeat). This gave them the honor of becoming the first Asian country to qualify for the fourth straight play in the World Cup. Co-hosting the 2002 World Cup with Japan would immediately qualify them for the main game in 2002, thus becoming the ninth country in the world to appear in the World Cup 5 times consecutively. So far, only 8 countries have appeared in the World Cup more than 5 times; they are Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentine, Spain, England, Mexico, and Scotland. As in the 1998 World Cup, 32 teams will compete in 64 matches.

And perhaps Korea is also worthy of hosting the game as its nation is filled with soccer fans. Everyone in the country, including women and men in their 60s and 70s, seems to play the game. Schools, universities, communities, and companies establish their own teams and competitions. Numerous national tournaments are held each spring and fall. Its own national team, which was founded in 1983, has qualified for the World Cup five times and has won many international trophies.

Perhaps this 'fanatic' interest for soccer is related in some way to the Three Kingdoms Period, which was more than 1,500 years ago. This 'similar-to-the-modern-day' soccer game is called chook-kook and is still played today on special occasions. It was only after the 1896 formation of the Daehan Football Club that many others followed suit.

For more information on the 2002 World Cup Korea-Japan, do check out the official web site for the Korean Organizing Committee at

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