South Korea has something special for international athletes participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics who did not bring an entourage of fans to cheer them on — the “Korean Supporters.”
The 100,000-strong group consisting of Korean volunteers is on a mission to cheer non-local teams in an effort to inspire them while competing in a foreign land, according to The Star.
“Everyone else in Korea is going to support Korea. We’re trying to focus on other countries,” Korean Supporters Head of Communications Ki Yang Cho was quoted as saying.
According to Ki, the group has been busy this week bringing about 200 volunteers to Incheon Airport in Seoul to welcome the arriving Olympic athletes and tourists.
Earlier this week, they were seen carrying Canadian flags while cheering the arrival of Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir.
Just recently, a similar contingent of Korean Supporters welcomed Russia’s Olympic men’s hockey team with such fervor usually given to one’s home team.
Ki noted that the members are encouraged to cheer in the language of the athletes they’re supporting.
“We’re cheering in Russian, English, Chinese, Japanese,” Ki explained. “We’re going to have chants. We’re going to call out phrases. We’re going to wave flags.”
Even North Korea, which brought in a 229-strong cheer squad to cheer for their athletes, will also get cheers from the Korean Supporters.
“We’re not going to treat the North Koreans as special,” Ki noted. “We’re going to support them like we do other nations.”
Founded just before the 2002 World Cup of soccer by South Korean businessman Moon Sang Ju, the Korean Supporters were initially intended to help improve “his country’s global image and to promote world peace.”
“The entire world is one family, even if we’re from different countries,” said the 72-year-old entrepreneur. “It’s just sports. It’s okay to support other countries and other athletes.”
While his vision may indeed sound noble, there are many Koreans who do not fully agree, especially those who believe in supporting the home team above others. But despite critics, the group has grown over the years, converting some naysayers along the way, and inspiring copycat groups who also have decided to come in droves to support non-local teams.
The original Korean Supporters, who have their own song and dance routine, will always stand out wearing their eye-catching yellow vest uniform while trying to bring about world peace in the best way they can: cheering their hearts out.
Feature Image via YouTube / Ruptly