Caught in the vertex | Korean dancers sharpen ‘official cheering tool’

Korean actor Kim Soo-ro starts the craze on a television program. Four more versions will be revealed during the World Cup, he says. (KBS)

Seoul | We are unable to determine exactly what actions constitute the kkokjijeom, the “vertex dance” consisting of “simple, repetitive rhythmic movements” with which South Koreans will be supporting their side during the World Cup finals. Dancers have assembled across the country, outside the Seoul World Cup Stadium on Mar 1 before a friendly against Angola, to demonstrate its addictive qualities.

As with any certified Korean fad, the dance has its own community on Internet portal Cyworld, the virtual gathering place that has attracted more than a quarter of South Korea’s populace with the potential to buy “acorns” and decorate one’s room with furniture, people and miniature pets. (It’s too complicated to explain further, but see the article in The Age.) The dance’s official site has, as of today, some 112,000 registered members.

Popular Korean TV serial Dae Jang Geum (Jewel in the palace), a period 16th-century drama, shows its football spirit. Stories by the Associated Press and National Public Radio have recently spotlighted the “Korean wave.”

Kkokjijeom‘s progenitor is actor Kim Soo-ro, who culled from his memory of a formation dance in college. The dance made its debut on Jan 31 as a comic segment on Korean Broadcasting Service variety show Sang Sang Plus, but devotees have responded with seriousness. It has given supporters a new rallying tool to follow up the nation’s co-hosting of the 2002 finals. The 2002 sensation involved the mass response to songs “Oh, pil-seung Korea” (Oh, victory to Korea) and “Ari-rang” performed by the Yoon Do Hyun Band, vocalized by ever greater numbers as South Korea advanced to the semifinals.

Yet a spokesman for Red Devil, the official supporters’ group, remains ambivalent about the new dance’s cultural signifiers. Some fear exists that, in its coordinated, martial arts–style motions, kkokjijeom might recall images of the Pyongyang mass games featuring a football stadium full of brightly clad and perfectly choreographed gymnasts, and one of the Communist regime’s biggest propaganda tools. Red Devil media director Kim Dong-soo tells the Korea Herald:

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