World Cup Fever Grips Seoul

World Cup fever is gripping Korea after months of gloom following the April 16 ferry disaster.

The Red Devils, the official supporters of the national football team, set up a 25 m x 9 m stage and a 500-inch screen in Gwanghwamun Plaza at 10 a.m. on Tuesday as Korea prepared to face Russia in Brazil.

Since the 2002 World Cup, the Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall had been the main venue for public cheering, but now it houses an altar for the victims of the ferry disaster, so the supporters moved to Gwanghwamun.

The Red Devils downscaled events including street performances.

Gwanghwamun Plaza in downtown Seoul is packed with people in red gathered to cheer for the Korean national team on early Wednesday morning during a match against Russia in Brazil. /News 1 Gwanghwamun Plaza in downtown Seoul is packed with people in red gathered to cheer for the Korean national team on early Wednesday morning during a match against Russia in Brazil. /News 1

The supporters gathered from midnight and stayed there for about nine hours to cheer the national team until early Wednesday morning.

A stage and another 500-inch screen were also installed in the streets near COEX in the upscale Gangnam District.

A police officer estimated that only 20,000 to 30,000 people, much fewer than in previous years, gathered on Gwanghwamun Plaza and other venues in Seoul because the country still is in mourning for the ferry disaster.

People react in Gwanghwamun Plaza in downtown Seoul on Wednesday morning as Lee Keun-ho scores a goal in a World Cup match against Russia in Cuiabá, Brazil. /News 1 People react in Gwanghwamun Plaza in downtown Seoul on Wednesday morning as Lee Keun-ho scores a goal in a World Cup match against Russia in Cuiabá, Brazil. /News 1

Police and the Seoul city government provided maximum support. Some subway lines started operations at 5:00 a.m. Wednesday, about 30 minutes earlier than usual, because many people traveled to the cheering venues before 7:00 a.m. when the Korea-Russian match began.

Similar events were held at stadiums, gymnasiums and parks in Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Daejeon, and elsewhere. Police estimated that a total of 102,200 people gathered at 27 cheering venues across the country on Wednesday morning.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 18, 2014 10:08 KST