- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2002

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) At the North Korean border, the United States and South Korea are allies. When it comes to sports these days, the relationship is tense, adding even more intrigue to tomorrow's World Cup game.
Trouble began Feb. 20, when Kim Dong-sung was first across the line in the 1,500-meter short-track speedskating final at the Salt Lake City Olympics. But the South Korean was disqualified for improperly blocking Apolo Anton Ohno with a half-lap to go, giving the gold to the 19-year-old American.
South Korea threatened to sue and boycott the closing ceremonies. Anger increased when Jay Leno referred to the incident during his monologue on "The Tonight Show."
In a front-page story Friday, The Korea Times said "the negative feelings against Ohno stoked anti-American sentiment, and this was compounded by what locals perceived to be the heavy-handed approach by Washington to force Seoul to choose a U.S. company for its multibillion-dollar fighter jet acquisition project."
There also is lingering anger about Spc. Christopher K. McCarthy of Concord, N.H., who is serving a six-year term in a South Korean jail for killing a bar waitress who refused to have sex with him.
"I think we should defeat the Americans, whose arrogance we witnessed in the Ohno episode in the Winter Olympics," 16-year-old Lee Sook-hee of Gyeongju said Friday. "So I think this is a good chance to avenge the injustice."
South Korea and the United States won their first-round World Cup openers, and it's possible the winner of tomorrow's game in the southern city of Daegu will clinch a berth in the second round.
Tens of thousands of South Koreans are rallying behind their team, wearing red shirts that say, "Be the Reds," and pep rallies repeatedly are shown on television.
"The atmosphere should be amazing," said U.S. forward Joe-Max Moore, who has experienced tough crowds in Central America. "Fortunately for us, I think the stands are quite a way back from the field, so they won't be right on top of us. But there's no doubt that it's going to be hard to talk and hard to communicate between the players."
In the South Korean capital, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said up to 5,000 officers will patrol the streets, where tens of thousands of people are expected to gather to watch the game on jumbo TV screens.
The screens are just one block from the U.S. embassy, which will close at noon, 3 hours before kickoff (2:30 a.m. EDT) to allow staff to watch.
On Feb. 9, 15 college students were detained for questioning after they attempted to enter the embassy to protest a visit by President Bush.
"We are aware of all the bad news about rape and other crimes committed by some U.S. troops, so, yes, we will have a little bit of anti-Americanism when we cheer for our team," said Choi Dae-woong, an 18-year-old fan from Gyeongju. "But I don't think a lot of people will demonstrate against the Americans even if we lose."
There are about 37,000 U.S. troops in the country, and President Kim Dae-jung has said rising anti-Americanism hurts South Korean interests.
Leno's remarks led to widespread condemnation in the country, sensitive to criticism about the diets of some South Koreans. Former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil told South Korean reporters Leno was an "ill-mannered, ugly guy," according to The Korea Herald.
NBC responded that Leno didn't intend to offend South Korea, adding that in comedy "people have different opinions about where the lines should be drawn."
At the 1998 World Cup in France, the United States played Iran, considered an American enemy since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. The team played down the political significance of the game, which Iran won 2-1, eliminating the Americans.
It's no different this time around. Asked about Ohno's controversial medal, U.S. coach Bruce Arena said: "What was that? Snowboarding?"
Arena and U.S. players repeatedly have praised their South Korean hosts, and the coach said he did not perceive any animosity.
"I've seen no sign of that anywhere. We're allies," he said. "You see soldiers serving next to each other at the DMZ. It's hard to imagine problems."

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