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South Korea Fires Soccer Coach

June 21, 1998

PARIS (AP) _ Cha Bum-kun was fired Sunday as South Korea’s soccer coach after a crushing 5-0 loss to the Netherlands in the World Cup.

The former international star said he was upset, but not embittered by his sudden dismissal.

``I tried my best, but the results were poor,″ Cha said at a hastily called news conference in Paris.

He also thanked the team and said he hoped the players would do their best and win against Belgium in their final first-round match.

The decision to fire Cha came hours after the humilating defeat in Marseille. Chun Hanjin, the team’s assistant manager, said the technical committee called a meeting Sunday in Paris.

``Somebody had to take responsibility,″ Chun said. ``It ends right here, right now for him.″

Cha was replaced by assistant coach Kim Pyung-seok.

South Korea lost 3-1 to Mexico in its first match and the rout by the Netherlands left it without hope of advancing to the second round. South Korea has never won a game in five visits to the World Cup.

Just before the news conference to announce his dismissal, Cha talked to the players in private.

``He basically said he was sorry and disappointed that he cannot spend time and the rest of the tournament with the players. And he said don’t take it too hard,″ Chun said.

Cha, 45, said he planned to return to Seoul on Sunday night, and would study his term as coach to see what went wrong. Cha also said if he ever got another chance to coach the national team, he would achieve better results.

Cha, a player for South Korea’s 1986 World Cup team, spent 10 years in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfort between 1979 and 1989, winning the UEFA Cup with both teams.

South Korea and Japan are co-hosts for the 2002 World Cup finals. With their economy mired in a severe financial crisis that has forced tens of thousands of people out of work, South Koreans had hoped their soccer team would provide a sorely needed boost to the country’s national pride.

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