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One Summer’s Transformation Essay

1586 words - 7 pages

One Summer’s Transformation

Never in my life before have I been so proud to say that I am Korean. I call myself Korean-American, but before I used to consider myself to be more American than Korean. I live in this country, speak English, and am fully immersed in American culture. America is my home, and I am proud of that. However, the same could not be said of my Korean heritage. I was never ashamed, but neither did I feel any particular pride in it. That was the case until this summer’s World Cup 2002, co-hosted by Japan and Korea. Though not an extremely passionate soccer fan before, I started to watch the world cup with increasing interest.

The first day when the USA beat ...view middle of the document...

During the final game of group play, Korea beat Portugal in dramatic fashion. The winning goal by Park Ji Sung, an upcoming star, was polled by the FIFA website, the official website of the tournament, to be one of best of the World Cup. The fans’ ardor and pervading spirit had a profound effect on me. Their chants and cheers were making me proud to be Korean, too. I felt a cultural bond that I had never realized

From then on the madness started. I went online to buy the jerseys of the Korean players and the other paraphernalia, and of course to purchase the “Be the Reds” t-shirt, the trademark shirt of the Korean fans. A year before, no one thought Korea could make the second round. Even when they brought in Guus Hiddink of Holland, the coach who took the Netherlands to the semifinals four years earlier in France, the Korean people were skeptical. To show the skepticism, many Korean companies told customers they would receive free prizes if the country advanced far into the tournament. They lost millions of dollars in the end. But now, the whole country and even the companies were elated. Everyone supported the home team, and so did the immigrants like me who had left the homeland. Back home in Philadelphia, my dad and his friends were up every night in the early morning hours to watch the matches. I had never seen them so fanatical and passionate. My friends were watching at Korean restaurants and cafés in the morning on big screen TVs, and even my non-Korean friends were cheering the Korean team on. I realized that sports have a way of bonding people together. Even the non-Koreans cheered for the underdogs.

During the Italy vs. Korea match, I was at the shore for a week with my friends. Even after all the late-night partying, I got up at seven o’clock sharp to watch it. I was nervous the whole time because the Italians were expected to cruise through to the semifinals, and, as expected the Italians took a 1-0 lead after the first 20 minutes. My stomach was in knots. How could the Korean team come this far and lose? Italy’s lead continued to the 87th minute. In three minutes, I thought, the dream would be over. My newfound confidence in my team would be washed away. Then a miracle happened. Seol Ki Hyeon, who plays for a club in Europe, where all the great footballers play, restored my faith. The two teams tied in the last minutes of the game. In the end, Korea won with a golden goal by Ahn Jung Hwan. Controversy raged after the match because Ahn Jung Hwan played for Perugia, the superb Italian soccer team. But none of that mattered to me. I just wished I could party in the streets of Korea with the millions and millions of other delirious fans. My aunt told me that my little cousin learned to chant “Dae Han Min Guk” before he could say “mom” or “dad.” I was in a state of ecstasy. My pride in Korea soared. There was a real connection between the fans in Korea and me. Maybe it was because we had a common purpose, but it was...

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