The Love of 축구 (chuggu)

A wave of red is again sweeping over the Republic of Korea. Why, you ask? Because the FIFA World Cup is about to begin. (That’s soccer to those Americans who aren’t familiar.) That means the Red Devils, the ROK National Team fan club, will be cheering, wearing red T-shirts, and singing this year’s victory song, generally going all out to support their team.

Yes, like much of the world, 축구 (chuggu), which is Korean for football (American soccer), is the most popular sport in the Republic of Korea. The ROK national football team, nicknamed 태극전사, Taegeuk Jeonsa (or Taegeuk Warriors) whose symbol is a tiger, has qualified for eight FIFA World Cup tournaments, including the 2010 event that begins tomorrow in South Africa. In 2002, Korea co-hosted the event with Japan, and the Korean team had it’s best finish ever, coming in fourth.

A sea of Red Devils during the 2002 FIFA World Cup (courtesy Wikipedia)

That success fanned the frenzy of the Red Devils, 붉은 악마 (Bulgeun Ahgma). From what I can find, 2o02 marked the first time that the Red Devils had a slogan, matching T-shirts, and a K-pop victory song. Matching red shirts with a new slogan and a victory song again accompanied the team’s play in the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. And the trend continues this year with new shirts, slogan, and song.

This year’s slogan is “The Shouts of Reds,” and the official shirt with the slogan can only be purchased from one store chain in Korea. The 2010 song is addictive, but more on that in tomorrow’s post.

One of the Red Devils popular cheers goes: 대~한민국 (Dae-han Minguk), clap-clap–clap-clap–clap, which means Republic of Korea in Korean. Drums or thunder sticks are sometimes used to make the clapping more intense.

During the four years between FIFA World Cups, Koreans feed their love of football by cheering on the teams in the K-League, which is the oldest professional football league in Asia, and rooting on the national team as it plays in World Cup qualifying matches. But the enthusiasm for the World Club play is unmistakable.

World Cup fever has started at our house. The Korean victory song plays several times a day, my son and I are learning the dance that goes with the song, my husband is counting the hours until the World Cup starts, and we all plan to be in front of the TV at 5:30 Saturday morning (local time) to cheer on the South Korean team. (We’ll be cheering on the U.S. team, too, later in the day on Saturday, but sadly all of the U.S. won’t be with us.)

If you want to read more about South Korea’s national team or the Red Devils, here are some links for you.– a blog about the South Korean team– an article about how some Korean fans are worried that overseas Korean fan won’t know the new cheers or song– an article about how the Red Devils have diversified in style since 2002


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