Skip to Content

Search: {{$root.lsaSearchQuery.q}}, Page {{$}}

Soccer, Red Shirts, and Candle Lights: The Two Faces of South Korea’s Sports Nationalism

Inkyu Kang (University of Pennsylvania)  

Abstract: This paper explores Korea’s double-faced sports nationalism since the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Special emphasis will be placed on the impact of “overconnectedness” that takes sports patriotism to a new level in one of the most wired places on earth (Davidow 2011; Shirky 2008). Based on historical analyses, it investigates how top-down nationalism promoted by the state through international sporting events has been a double-edged sword for political power (Nodia 1991; Tilly 2003). Nationalist sports fervor often ends up challenging and even threatening the government. Nothing shows this point more vividly than the 2002 World Cup when the Korean team defeated soccer powers like Portugal, Italy and Spain. People poured out onto the streets, changing, dancing, and waving their national flags. However, many of the red-shirted people roaring patriotic slogans like “Win Korea” and “Great Republic of Korea” later held pickets, candles, and mobile phones in protest against the government’s conservative reforms. This is an attempt to contextualize the multifarious interplay among sports, nationalism, and new media technologies in South Korea.