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This study examines how one sporting figure came to signify fundamental shifts in Korean society at the beginning of the 21st century—a time when Korean society was destabilized and seeking to reposition itself within the global economy. Guus Hiddink, a Dutch-born soccer coach, is credited with helping Korea attain its highest-ever ranking at the 2002 World Cup. Sporting achievements aside, Hiddink’s role as a foreigner and national Korean hero presents a unique and unprecedented case study of the relationship between globalization, nationalism, and neoliberal citizenship. Hiddink was the first foreigner ever to be awarded honorary national citizenship. Furthermore, his general coaching strategies and philosophies assumed a mantralike quality, popularly referred to as the Hiddink syndrome, that influenced wider cultural changes with respect to economics, politics, education, and the very definition of national citizenship and identity.
Nammi and Keunmo Lee are with the Department of Physical Education, Pusan National University, Geumjeong Gu, Busan, South Korea; Jackson is with School of Physical Education, University of Otago, Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand.