JULY 2003

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World Cup Legacy for Second Generation Korean-Americans
From JoongAng
May 29, 2003

By HyunSang Lee

The World Cup fever among Korean-Americans last June 2002 was fueled by the second generation’s support. Among hundreds and thousands of crowds cheering the South Korean team, their participation was distinguishable. Especially around Seoul Plaza, Flushing, known as the Mecca for cheering during the World Cup match, second generation Koreans wearing red T-shirts and Korean national flag face paint filled the streets several hours before the game. They shouted and cheered, and their emotional impact from Korean soccer team’s victory was no less than that of the first generation.

It is amazing to notice their changes in attitude. Before the World Cup 2002, many of them did not have a high ethnic pride or favorable attitudes toward South Korea. However, these same people gathered to cheer and waved the Korean national flag last June; the phenomenon is as surprising as it was to see Korea go to the semi-final round. And the change has continued since.

Kim, a parent from Long Island shared his impressions: “My teenage son barely spoke Korean other than with Mom and Dad before. Since the World Cup, he has been self-studying Korean nights and days, and now we are having conversations. It would have been impossible without the World Cup.”

James Lee, a high school student from Queens, recalled that he has never been so proud of being a Korean as when his friends were envious of the Koreans’ success during the match. He emphasized, “Now I am sure I will be proud of being a Korean whenever and wherever I will be.”
The second generation, who often had criticized Korea and Koreans when they saw the negative U.S. media coverage of Korea, found their ethnic identity and started to defend Koreans when friends from other ethnic groups expressed negative views of Korea.

A community foundation that supports Korean non-profit organizations through the “One Dollar for Neighbors” campaign has had increasing participation from the second generation who took a major role running the campaign after the World Cup.

Although promising, community leaders are not fully satisfied. An activist from a community organization emphasized the role of the first generation, saying that the first generation has to help and provide a ground for the second generation to participate in community services.

 

Translated from Korean by JooYeon Lee.

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