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Koreatown Festive Despite Cup Loss

June 25, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ More than 5,000 soccer fans, wearing red, banging drums and waving South Korean flags, crowded into a Koreatown parking lot to watch their team’s improbable World Cup run end in a 1-0 semifinal loss to Germany.

The game started locally at 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, but that didn’t dissuade fans of the Red Devils from attending.

``I just wanted to get a taste of what it was like to watch the match with thousands of Korean fans,″ said John Host, 19, who traveled from Orange County with friends to view the big-screen telecasts. ``It was a great atmosphere and everyone was festive, even though they lost.″

Los Angeles has the largest Korean population outside Asia, about 200,000 strong, according to the Korean-American Federation of Los Angeles. The viewing party was organized by the Korean-American Business Association as a way to unite the community, president Jong Min-kang said.

Spirit was hardly a problem. In addition to the drums and flags, the crowd chanted patriotic songs, hoping to see the team become the first Asian squad in the final game. Coming into the tournament, the South Koreans had been winless in 14 World Cup games.

``I think what they did brought the country together and put a spotlight on Korea,″ said Jimmy Bang, another fan.

The Red Devils’ display of tenacity and endurance convinced fans of all different nationalities to jump on their bandwagon.

``We like the way they play very much,″ said Isa Guevara, who started following the Korean squad after his beloved Mexico team lost its second-round match to the United States. ``All the games were great.″

South Korea’s showing has fans already anticipating the next World Cup in 2006. Coincidentally, that tournament will be played in Germany.

More than 100 police officers were on hand, but they had little to do. Despite the loss, the crowd was well behaved, and neat, to boot. Most left their trash in dozens of garbage cans lined with red bags as they streamed out of the parking lot.

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