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Eternal triangle in Northeast Asia

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By Choi Sung-jin

There is an unwritten rule among all Korean athletes in national squads regardless of events: Never lose to Japan. Players say, half-jokingly, "We have to win even in rock, paper, and scissors if our counterparts are Japanese."

In the championship final of the Premier12 baseball tournament in Tokyo on Sunday, however, Japan defeated Korea 5-3. Japan deserved the win by most accounts. Aside from the game itself, two things caught my eye ― the Japanese spectators and the playing styles of the two teams.

The organizers of Premier12 stress it is the international competition of the world's top-12 baseball powerhouses. Without the U.S. Major League Baseball players participating, however, its overall level is close to the Minor League's Triple-A class. Only three Northeast Asian countries ― Korea, Japan and Taiwan ― are paying particular attention to it.

Still, a near-capacity crowd of about 50,000 filled the Tokyo Dome Park for two days in a row when Korea and Japan met. The Japanese fans even participated in mass cheering, singing and motioning together, which appeared uncommon for normally staid Japanese people.

True, Korea pulled off a ninth-inning upset against Japan to win the championship in its inaugural tournament four years ago, also in Tokyo. However, the Japanese crowd over the weekend seemed to reflect the ongoing tense rivalry between the two nations in various areas.

As is with most things that came from the West, Japan has a far longer history and a much broader base than Korea in baseball, too. This notwithstanding,........

© The Korea Times