- You're a great fan of FC Seoul. Who's your favorite player? Why are you so passionate about Korean football?
My all-time favorite player is Choi Hyo-jin who used to play for FC Seoul. Choi later moved to the Jeonnam Dragons. When he left FC Seoul, I was sad. I have no better player to substitute him in my heart. I wish I could find a new, great player to replace him, though.
I've always loved football, ever since I was little. I went to football matches with my father and grandfather when I was three or four. I always looked for football matches during my life in Korea. In 2002, I finished my master's just before the FIFA Korea-Japan World Cup 2002 and was supposed to go back home. However, I stayed a few more months to watch the World Cup in Korea. I was happy to see more football fans in Korea ever since then. These days, I also look for chances to watch FC Seoul matches with my children. I even tell my co-workers to check the football match schedule before planning an event.
- Is there any uniqueness to Korean football and to football fandom here, if you compare it with those in the U.K.? Also, on the contrary, what unique sides of U.K. football and related culture would you like to introduce to Korea?
Korean fans seem to be very nice. They have a deep affection for their teams. They do sing songs to cheer up the team, but don't attack the rival teams in the song. If a player from their team moves to another team, they don't speak badly of the player. Instead, if the player visits the home of his previous team, the fans still welcome him as if the player is visiting his parents’ house. This is sort of unthinkable in the U.K. In the U.K., when a player moves to another team, he's regarded as an outsider. Some fans might even blame him. Fans who cheer for different teams even banter between each other, exchanging jokes while downgrading the other team. It can also be fun, as a new cheer or song can be made during the process.
- You love to travel to many areas across Korea. Can you tell us a bit about your favorite attraction here?
My travel plan is based on FC Seoul’s match schedule. In Korea, I've been to Jeju Island, Busan, Gangneung and Gwangyang, where the team had matches. I visit the place with my family a few days ahead of the match and look around the local attractions. When the team has a match on Jeju Island, I try to bring my family, as the island is a great place for sightseeing. I even went to Sydney for a match in 2014, the farthest place for me to follow with a few other fans. I've also been to Japan and China for matches.
- In your view, what are the Korean people and Korean society like?
That's a very difficult question. When it comes to a first impression, Koreans are friendly and kind, but not friendly in other ways. For example, when I'm looking at a map in the subway, people will often ask me if I need help. However, when a visibly non-Korean person is lost and asks another for directions, many people try not to help. This may be because they aren't confident about their English, but it can be seen as being unfriendly.
Koreans are very kind people at first glance, but they try to be good and nice to those who they know. On the other hand, they seem to ignore other people. Let’s say, when driving in Korea, drivers don't seem to willingly yield to others, and even seem selfish. However, if they're driving with others who they know, they'll show a very different attitude. It seems like some sort of dichotomy.
- I wonder what your next plans are after the Seoul Global Center. Can you tell us about your next goal? What do you want to do in the future?
Currently, I find my job as head of the center to be extremely interesting. I want to concentrate on my job and do it well. If I receive recognition, I could work here longer.
In the long term, I think working for an overseas corporation in Korea would be good, as we can find many of them all around the country these days.
By Yoon Sojung
Korea.net Staff Writer
Photos: Jeon Han Korea.net Photographer