▲ “From Baekdu to Halla; Korean Football Dream Match”attracted more spectators than the Seogwipo World Cup Stadium has seen in many years, though many of the students in attendance were there for the performances by popular Korean groups, rather than the game between Jeju United and Yanbian FC. Photos by Brian Miller
Many eyes were on Seogwipo on Saturday, Dec. 5, as Jeju United played host to the Chinese soccer team Yanbian FC in the exhibition game, “From Baekdu to Halla; Korean Football Dream Match,” presented by MBC. Weeks prior to the event, excitement was high with banners hung, radio advertisements galore and school children of all ages carrying their prized tickets to class. This was to be no ordinary soccer match - this was a celebration of accomplishment, hope and unity.
The game attracted more spectators to Seogwipo World Cup Stadium than any match in recent history, though it appeared that the majority of the elementary-, middle- and high-school students present were there not to see Jeju United’s 2-0 victory, but sat through the game in anticipation of the star-studded performance to follow.
The event itself was in honor of the North Korean and South Korean National soccer teams for their achievement in being admitted to participate in the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The reason for the match, coupled with the rhetoric of the advertising campaign, led many of the Jeju foreigner population to assume that the game was to be played against a North Korean team. “The funny thing is,” said Fred Strydom, an English teacher from South Africa who attended the event, “it [the game] got punted as Jeju-North Korea. This is kind of what spread through the foreigner community.
▲ Photo courtesy Jeju United FC
“At the end of the day it is not the dream match,” Strydom said. “They are making it as a spectacle. You can’t really get too deep into it. It’s like they call it the dream match because it is an opportunity to reassert themselves in front of a foreign team. I don’t really know why else they would call it the dream match.”
Though the city of Yanbian is not situated within North Korea, it is a Korean autonomous zone inhabited by a large minority of ethnic Koreans in the province of Jilin, China, which borders both North Korea and Russia. Yanbian FC, nicknamed the Baekdusan (the highest point in North Korea) Tiger, is the country’s only soccer team comprised of Koreans, thus making it an easy substitute in lieu of a North Korean presence.
The game was an energetic event with fast-paced ball movement by both teams that really got the crowd excited. Jeju United took an early lead during the first half, scoring two goals separated by only three minutes. The second half proved less eventful, though no less entertaining, with many good scoring opportunities, predominately for the home team.
Immediately after the game there was a nationwide televised concert hosted by Tiffany and Yuri of So Nhuyh Si Dae, also known as Girls’ Generation. The show was a little over an hour long with performances by Kara, 2PM, Brown Eyed Girls, Shinee and many other well-known Korean bands. The stage was located in the stands on one side of the field and the performances were of high quality, many accompanied with real explosions of fire and fireworks that were synchronized to the music.
The only complaint about the event, other than the cold, was that the stage was so far from the audience. “It was really hard to see the singers,” said Won Kang Hye, a sixth-grade Year elementary student who went to the event specifically to see 2PM.
“I thought it was disappointing how they set it up,” Strydom said. “I think a lot of people came to see the bands, but they couldn’t see them from where they were.”
Not all of the bands performed on the stage, some were in the middle of the soccer field with their backs to the audience. The entire concert was broadcast on the stadium scoreboard and was very impressive with skilled, rehearsed camera cuts from band member to band member and interesting camera angles. The acts on the field, with the bands singing and dancing with the spectators seen in the background, seemed to suggest that the main audience was not those in the stands, but the viewing public at home. MBC Seoul was unable to be reached for comment for this article.
But despite the cold and the difficulty in seeing the performers, at least some in the audience were happy. “It was great,” Won said.
The Dream Match may not have been for everyone, but it afforded the citizens of Jeju a rare opportunity to see some of their favorite performers, who seldom venture to the island, and to re-establish and reconnect with Koreans from another country, from whom they are usually separated by their nations’ differing ideologies.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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