Friday, June 23, 2006

Sports: LA's Koreatown going World Cup Crazy!

Noon (PDT).


Korea vs. Switzerland.

Businesses in Koreatown are capitalizing on the Soccer fever gripping fans of the Korean soccer team. Excerpts:
If South Korea beats Switzerland today, several Koreatown businesses plan to offer free or discounted services and merchandise.

Up for grabs are free bowls of noodles, cut-rate hair cuts, rounds of drinks, higher interest rates on savings accounts and even a chance to win a wig.

What they will lose in sales, these entrepreneurs hope to make up in goodwill and promotion for their businesses.
For Lee, it's more than just a sports event. Lee, an immigrant from South Korea, has three children, who were all born in the United States. She said they felt little connection to the country that she still considered home -- although soccer is starting to change that.

"In 2002, the children were too young," Lee said. "They didn't understand why I was being so crazy about the games. But now, they're starting to get it. They say, 'Oh, this is our parents' country.' And I tell them, 'These are your roots too.' "

Pride is also a driving force for Andrew Shin, manager of Bohemian, a bar on 6th Street and Kenmore Avenue that is opening early to accommodate the soccer set.

"It means a lot to us, as immigrants, to see Korea doing so well," Shin said. "A lot of people in the United States don't even know where South Korea is located. This is our time to shine, to make our mark."

On Sunday, when South Korea played France to a 1-1 tie, about 150 people gathered inside Bohemian. Shin gave out a round of drinks on the house when South Korea scored. Today, he plans to do the same: one free drink per person every time South Korea scores.

With a drink costing an average of $6, Shin knows that the bar could lose hundreds of dollars if the team performs well.
Yang Gi restaurant at 7th Street and Vermont Avenue is expecting patrons to come watch the game on its two TVs and will take 20% off all lunch tabs today. If South Korea wins, the discount will grow to 30%.
Thousands of South Korean fans are expected to gather in Koreatown to watch the game on big-screen TVs and projector screens. One of the main viewing areas is on Wilshire Boulevard between Serrano and Oxford avenues. Radio Korea, which is organizing the event, said it expected about 10,000 people.
[ed. note, emphasis mine]
Not to be outdone, Pacific City Bank on Wilshire Boulevard will boost the interest rate paid on money market accounts opened in the last two months if the South Korean team advances. The initial rate of 4.25% will bump up 0.25%, the bank said, adding that a number of restrictions would apply.

A South Korean victory would kick off a raffle at Himo Inc. for a $1,500 wig. If the team advances again, the retailer will give away two more wigs. Another advance, three wigs.

At A Team Hair Salon, owner Jenny Park knows that she will have a busy day if South Korea wins this afternoon because she will offer men's haircuts for $1.99. The normal price is $20.

If South Korea moves ahead again to become one of the top eight teams in the competition, she will offer women's haircuts, normally $20, for $1.99.

And should South Korea enter the semifinals -- where the team was eliminated in 2002 -- Park will offer all haircuts for free. Each offer would be valid for only the day the team wins.

"If they come, we'll just have to give out number tickets, I guess," she said. "They'll have to wait. But we'll get to them."


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