Category Archives: gwangju blog

Gwangju Blog articles aggregated

This here's Gwangju

I am a staff writer for Gwangju Blog and write five articles a month. I rarely publish them here, since they are pretty niche. Instead, I’m going to post monthly links to what I’ve written. This is a bit late, since I’m leaving in a month, but ho-hum, here are March’s:

Gwangju FC vs Pohang Steelers: K-League Preview

Korean Culture Minister Visits Gwangju

K-League Update: Gwangju Lose

Gwangju FC Get Off To Perfect start

K-League Preview: Gwangju Kick Off At Home to Daegu

Gwangju Sangmu 1-2 Ulsan Horangi-i

Gwangju Sangmu Phoenix turned in yet another mediocre performance, as they tasted defeat in their final game of the season. But if truth be told, Sunday’s effort was about par for the course on a season that’s seen them win only 3 games from 28, scoring a paltry 17 goals and conceding a 43. Both sides came into the encounter with different reasons for needing the points. Ulsan, twice K-League champions, were looking to maintain the good form that has seen them take a place in the Asian Champions League play-off positions. Gwangju, on the other hand, were chasing a victory that would keep them off bottom position in the table; a feat they managed to “achieve” despite losing, with Daegu’s inept showing at Chunnam Dragons (2-1) meaning they took this season’s wooden spoon.

Gwangju started brightly enough, penning Ulsan back in their own half for the majority of the opening exchanges and their early endeavour was rewarded with the opening goal on only 12 minutes. Cho Yong-Tae rose to meet a cross and knocked it past Korean international goalkeeper Kim Young-Kwang. Gwangju’s coach and supporters will have been disappointed that their team’s impetus was maintained so briefly. Only 7 minutes later, Ulsan were level. Paraguayan striker Jose Maria Ortigoza (a promising attacker, on loan from Club Sol de America in his homeland and who made his international debut earlier this year), latched onto a forward ball, beat the defender and rifled in a shot from a narrow angle. Kim Jee-Hyuk, in the Gwangju goal, got his gloves, but only enough to parry it into his own net. It was a fortuitous goal, but highlighted the lethal form Ortigoza has been in of late. Second top scorer in the K-League for the season with 17 (as many as the entire Gwangju team have mustered), he finished the league season with 7 goals in his final 6 games.

Proceedings were scrappy up until half time, with neither side wanting to seize the initiative, a pattern that continued into the second period. In the 54th minute, though, Ortigoza pounced again for the goal of the game. Played in by a midfielder he received the ball at the edge of the area, held off a couple of Sangmu defenders, before firing low into the bottom corner of the hapless Kim’s goal. At 2-1, it never looked as though Gwangju were going to get back into it. The players looked disinterested and demotivated and Ulsan were happy to knock it around, letting the soldiers chase their shadows. It was a disappointing end to what’s ostensibly the club’s final K-League season.

The newly formed Gwangju FC launched their website last month( – Korean only) and an official foundation ceremony is mooted for December, at which stage they hope to be accepted into the K-League as the 16th member, competing as of 2011. It has been suggested that they will be allowed special dispensation (as Gangwon were a few years back) to select players from this year’s draft to flesh out their squad. They were previously said to be adopting the moniker “Gwangju Rayers” (supposedly because “ray” suggests imagery of light beams – a futuristic image that correlates with the growing city of Gwangju, and of course relates to Gwangju being the City of Light), but this has been put back for review (apparently due to some controversy over a local ray fish delicacy and the propensity of Koreans outside of the province to refer to Jeolla natives in derogatory terms related to the ray fish).

54-year-old Choi Man-Hee has been appointed as head coach and there is optimism that Gwangju will be able to shed the label of “whipping boys”. The prospect of a citizen team frees the coach to select the players he wants, not necessarily soldiers. It also creates the possibility of strengthening yearly and not building again from scratch once the players finish their military service. The potential to recruit international players, such as the hugely impressive Ortigoza, could also result in a welcome boost to attendances at the World Cup Stadium.


Daejeon Rock Festival


A day that was filled with promise turned into a case of what might have been. The first annual Daejeon Rock Festival guaranteed good music, world food and international beer. It barely delivered on any of the fronts. The festival was stopped at around 11pm (having been billed until 5am) due to complaints over noise pollution. The food fair was shoddily put together: three hundred advertised vendors shrunk drastically to about a dozen overpriced and confused (samosas come from Mexico? And is spaghetti a national dish of Spain?) fast-food retailers and the international beer and wine promised manifested itself as a shed-load of Cass. The sizeable Gwangju contingent that made the trip was certainly under-whelmed.

Nonetheless, it was beautiful to be able to bask in the last rays of sunlight before the onset of winter in the pleasant setting of the Daejeon Convention Centre. What survived of the music was a mixed bag, but for the most part enjoyable. One serious gripe, however, is that there were few announcements or little information on big screens to differentiate one band from the next. The whole thing had an amateurish feel about it… a shame, really, given the picturesque surroundings. The stage was thrust in amongst the apartment blocks and as the sunset, the backdrop was stunning. Hundreds of lanterns were raised to the sky and everybody was gearing up for a long night of music.

The first band was a shock to the system, proving that Screamcore is alive and well in Korea. Babies were wheeled bawling from the arena, locals wore concerned looks upon their faces and a general air of confusion reigned momentarily. They made way for an altogether more pleasing proposition, in ex-pats Dirty Gangneung. Rootsy, Black Keys style riffs were met by a tunefully wailing lead singer to wash the aural ruin of Act One from our ears. A crowd surfer and a spectacular firework display ensured that the visuals matched the audio, and the evening was ushered in, in fine style.

The third band to take the stage, Kickscotch, was arguably the most impressive. A female fronted quartet, they continued the brash rockiness of the precursors. The lead singer was reminiscent of PJ Harvey, head swirling and playing a flying V that completely dwarfed her. The music itself was more like an R-rated B-52s: call and response vocals, delivered over muscular riffs.

Kickscotch were followed on by the Seoul City Suicides, another riff heavy three-piece recalling Austin, Texas garage rockers White Denim. It was an enthusiastic, impressive set, but perhaps not as well-received as that of the ensuing act, Whatever That Means. Ignore the name; it wasn’t too hard to work out what was behind their music. They sounded like the fallout from Green Day’s Dookiepersonified and thrust onto a far-eastern stage. It was some tuneful refreshment to the heavy rock of the previous few bands and provided one of the highlights of the sadly curtailed evening.

A largely forgettable EMO ensemble were next up, followed by the strangely monikered, Skasucks. Apparently there is a healthy ska scene in Korea, and despite the irony of their name, they are surely one of the forerunners. They inspired moonstomping aplenty and by the end of their set, had filled the stage with crowd members hell-bent on replicating some of the Specials’ most video-friendly moments.

Shortly after, we realized there wouldn’t be anymore music. What was supposed to have gone on for eleven hours, lasted for around half that. Organizers had seemingly not fully considered the setting of the venue, in the midst of some large apartment buildings. Complaints over noise pollution resulted in the plug being pulled on an eventful, yet anti-climactic day in Daejeon.



Gwangju Blog

I’ve been asked to write for a local publication in Gwangju, the Gwangju Blog. It’s a regular gig, I’ll be writing four articles per month about sport in the area. I’ll post them on this blog too… partly out of convenience for future collation, but also, because maybe some people at home might be interested in reading them.
You can read Gwangju Blog here:
It contains updates, reports, directives and guides and is very useful for people in the area.

Gwangju Sangmu 1 – 1 Suwon Bluewings

Written for Gwangju Blog

The World Cup Stadium in Gwangju isn’t full at the best of times, so you can almost understand the paucity of supporters for Gwangju Sangmu’s K-League game on Sunday against Suwon Bluewings. After all, before kick-off, Sangmu were lying second from bottom. They’d scored thirteen goals in twenty games and recorded a paltry 3 victories. Talk of a citizen team to replace the current military set-up will no doubt be welcomed, but for now, we must make do with the soldiers! But that’s not to say a trip to watch them in action isn’t worthwhile. For fans of “the beautiful game” in Gwangju, it’s a chance to see professional soccer at a decent level. For those yet to awaken to its splendor, it’s a nice day out, in comfortable surroundings.

Suwon arrived at the Guus Hiddink Stadium as strong favorites, seven places ahead of Sangmu in the league table and one of the traditional powerhouses of Korean soccer, having won the K-League four times and the Asian Champions League twice. The difference between the two sets of supporters was marked: the Suwon followers cheered as only those who have tasted success can, consistent and choreographed. In contrast, the Gwangju support was tame and non-expectant, although one section of the crowd was impressively vocal. However, the cagy way in which the visitors started Sunday’s game was no indication as to a bridge in quality. Indeed, Gwangju’s stifling tactics proved to be more than a match for Suwon for much of the first half.

The play was scrappy. Any form of attack was strictly of the Route One variety, over the top. But just when it looked as though the spoils were to be shared at half time, Hong Soon-Hak broke free of his marker and was fouled in the area, with Gwangju conceding a penalty in the forty third minute. Japanese international and former Boca Juniors and Eintracht Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara stepped up and made no mistake from twelve yards

With the deadlock broken, both teams emerged for the second period a little more adventurously. Gwangju’s captain Choi Sung-Kuk went close with a volley from just outside the box, which was a harbinger for more involvement in the game from the influential forward. Suwon pushed on looking for a second, leaving gaps at the back, gaps the Sangmu forward line failed to capitalize on until late on. Gwangju’s Korean World Cup star, Kim Jung-Woo had a quiet game, but it was his mazy run past a couple of Bluewings defenders that led to the equalizer, after he was felled in the area.

The referee didn’t hesitate in pointing to the spot, and up stepped that man Choi again to fire past the keeper, high into the roof of the net. It was a goal Gwangju’s second half performance arguably deserved, but the military team could have snatched the victory as the game crept towards stoppage time. Choi again made space for himself in the Suwon penalty area, but was closed down just as he was about to pull the trigger. A powerful header drew a great save from Kang-Jin Ha in the visitors’ goal, but they held on for a point.

A point, though, is of little use to Gwangju. They are still hovering a single place from the foot of the table in what has been a disappointing season. Here is hoping the talk of a citizen team comes to fruition. This city deserves a quality, committed soccer team.