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U.S. NOTES

Security for South Korea Game Is a Concern

June 08, 2002|GRAHAME L. JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SEOUL — The pressure on South Korea to advance to the second round of the World Cup is so intense that it has raised concerns here that Monday's game against the United States in Daegu might provoke crowd trouble, should the home team lose.

Indicative of the concern was the decision by Kim Dae-Jung, South Korea's president, not to attend the match, although he was present for South Korea's 2-0 victory over Poland in Busan earlier in the week.

"It is a precautionary measure to have President Kim stay away from the stadium, considering the emotional nature of the match," a presidential spokesman told the Korea Times on Friday.

"Imagine that cases of violent protest take place at the stadium with President Kim inside. This is something that we must guard against."

With the U.S. having defeated Portugal, 3-2, the Koreans and Americans hold the top two places in Group D, and the winner of Monday's match will almost certainly advance to the final 16. A tie would benefit the U.S. more than South Korea, which has to close against Portugal while the U.S. has a potentially easier finale against Poland.

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The U.S. Embassy in Seoul has expressed "confidence that the Korean authorities will take necessary steps to prevent possible mishaps" at the game, but nonetheless has decided to close at noon Monday, ostensibly to allow its staff to watch the 3:30 p.m. game.

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The American team is trying to maintain an even keel, despite the euphoria of its surprise victory over favored Portugal.

"You can't be too high coming off that," defender Jeff Agoos said. "Even if we had lost, you can't be too low coming off the game. You've got to be a little bit more even. You've got to put that game behind you.

"We celebrated last night and now we move on to [play] South Korea. The games are coming pretty fast for us, so we've got to have the mind-set that South Korea is the most important game for us."

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