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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 June 2006, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
S Korea fans take over Frankfurt
By Laura Smith-Spark
BBC News, Frankfurt

Korean fans watching the match against Togo
Thousands of supporters watch the match on giant floating screens
South Korea fan Kang Seung-hyun is so dedicated to football she asked her mother to have a traditional dress made up and sent over in time for her team's opening World Cup game.

She was among thousands of excited supporters lining the River Main through Frankfurt to watch the match against Togo on giant floating screens.

The 23-year-old, who comes from Incheon, has lived in Frankfurt since last year and works for Lufthansa.

She said she was delighted to see so many South Koreans had travelled to Germany for the game, joining the large ex-pat Korean community here.

"They enjoy the atmosphere and the football fever every four years. We can get together through the game and feel the same emotions.

"It's so important for our country."

Kimchi

Emotions obviously are high in the crowd.

Before 2002, football wasn't that popular but since then, many people have become fans
Kang Seung-hyun

Everyone has inflatable plastic tubes to bang together - advertising the Korean speciality kimchi, or pickled cabbage - and play is punctuated by frenzies of co-ordinated drumming and chanting.

Ms Kang says: "Last time we hosted the World Cup [with Japan] and we got fourth place.

"Before 2002, football wasn't that popular but since then many people became a fan - and I hope it will get even bigger."

Football attracts almost everyone in South Korea.

There are easily as many women as men watching the game, almost all dressed in the team's red shirts and with the flag painted on their cheeks, many families with young children and older couples.

"We don't care about gender - we just share the passion for football," says Ms Kang.

"A few days ago I saw many England fans and they were all men, I saw no girls.

"Actually the Korean girls love the special costumes and getting dressed up for the games, so that's why they love these teams.

"My mother gave me this dress - I asked her to order it specially for the World Cup."

The traditional Korean costume, made from silk, has attracted the attention of many passers-by, all wanting their photograph taken with Ms Kang.

Her own favourite player is the Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung, who plays in the number seven shirt.

Dedicated fans

When South Korea finally equalise in the second half, the crowd goes wild.

South Korea fan Kang Seung-hyun
Kang Seung-hyun had a traditional dress sent over for the game

Everyone leaps to their feet, waving, drumming and cheering.

Rounds of singing fill the stands set up along the riverside for the tournament.

Ms Kang says it is hard to overestimate people's fervour for the game, despite its relatively recent arrival in the country.

"Most of the people here have come from South Korea just for the football.

"They've been saving their own money for years just to be here."

Another fan Shin Jee-won, 21, is proof of that commitment.

She has flown the 14 hours from Seoul for just three days - without even a ticket to watch the game in Frankfurt's Waldstadion.

"I couldn't watch in 2002 because I was a student so this year I've come here to watch. I wanted to see what it was like here," she said.

And if South Korea qualify for the next round?

"Of course I will come back," she said. "This is too exciting to miss."

South Korea came from behind to beat Togo 2-1 in their Group G World Cup opener.


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