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Tuesday, 25 June, 2002, 16:38 GMT 17:38 UK

Life and Seoul in Surrey

By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Online

Up the road the Queen was visiting Kingston-upon-Thames, but in leafy New Malden there was only one place to be on Tuesday.

About 1,300 people crammed into The Fountain pub and its grounds for the World Cup semi-final between South Korea and Germany.

The London suburb is home to 8,000 of Britain's 25,000 Koreans, which is evident from a glance at the shops and restaurants in the high street.

And the support for their team, led by drums and unofficial cheerleaders, was passionate but respectful.

It was the first time I had ever heard the opponents' national anthem being applauded.

One watching policeman muttered: "Why can't the England fans behave like this?"

Tellingly, the one moment of ill-feeling was a lone attempt at "If you all hate the Germans", which was started by a man in an England shirt.

It was a family event for many Koreans, who gladly waved Union Jacks and St George's flags as they urged on their team.

The South Korean embassy had arranged the big screens in the pub garden, plus free food and drink.

Shouts of "Dae Han Min Guk", which means "Korea", echoed around the adjoining high street.

Caroline Kim, 24, who lives in nearby Esher, said: "I'm just back from Korea, where the atmosphere was just astounding, but I feel like I'm back in Korea now."

Even the 1-0 defeat was taken squarely on the chin.

Arch enemy

Sang-Hyeob Lee, 30, a student from New Malden, said: "I'm very proud of them - win or lose, it's been fantastic and we'll celebrate."

Kim-Tae Yong, 20, from New Malden, said: "We've never been there before, so to be here is an achievement.

"We're not like England - we don't expect to win it, so to get this far is amazing."

Even the few German fans were impressed by their welcome.

Tom Sanctuary, a 23-year-old half-German from Kingston, said: "We thought we'd come into the lion's den.

"But they're all being so friendly, there's been no agitation, just lots of fun."

The English in the audience were mostly supporting South Korea against the arch enemy.

Tony Marshall, 41, from Morden, was hoping for one more giant-killing act.

He said: "This is absolutely fantastic, it really brings home a sense of community."

The idea to provide New Malden's Koreans with a means to collectively support their team was the idea of The Fountain's manager Pat Moroney.

On the eve of the World Cup, he put an A-board outside his pub saying, in Korean, the games they were showing, and it escalated from there.

It may not be over yet, because there could be a parade down New Malden High Street on Saturday, when South Korea will be playing their final match - a third-place play-off.

Not that the police will be dreading any further celebrations - Chief Inspector Tim Pointer, of Kingston Police, said it was "an absolute pleasure" to supervise the games.


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