Seoul’s sex dolls good news for Korea’s Aussies?


When FC Seoul’s marketing team thought about placing mannequins behind the goal at Seoul World Cup Stadium for the opening home game of the K-League season, it seemed like the perfect plan to help combat the fact that fans are not allowed in stadiums due to the coronavirus outbreak.

There was a local company that could supply the dolls with a CEO who was fan of the football club, offering to donate the new synthetic supporters.  

As Seoul quickly said, it was supposed to be a light-hearted gesture to make people feel better in these troubled times.

Instead, it developed into a big story internationally and a source of some anger inside South Korea.

And with the club that finished third last season in turmoil behind the scenes, that could be good news for Seoul’s rivals at Suwon Bluewings, Pohang Steelers and Ulsan Hyundai and their Australian stars Adam Taggart, Brandon O’Neill and Jason Davidson. 

The mannequins turned out, as everyone now knows, to be adult products and a number of them were holding up posters that gave messages of support for players but also references to an adult site.

Seoul said that it had all been a big misunderstanding with the supplier, and quickly issued a lengthy public apology.

For much of the world, the story has been an amusing one, a distraction from the constant coronavirus news.

In Korea however, it is a little more serious than that.

Even two days after the game, the main headlines still talk of the ‘Mannequin Disaster’ and 'The K-League’s shame’. 

It is partly because there was genuine delight in the country over the international attention that the league had received over the previous few days.

Football around the world had ground to a halt because of the coronavirus, but the K-League had been the first league of any note to start playing football again.

It was a testament to the nation’s efforts in fighting the virus, and all the praise that came Korea’s way was well-deserved. And the league basked in unprecedented global profile.

Three million watched the opening game on the league’s social media channels alone and it has been reported that the total viewership was 19 million people, including those in the 36 countries that bought rights. 

This was uncharted territory and fantastic news. 

And then came Seoul, a club that is not well-loved by fans around the country as their owners back in 2004, LG, moved the successful club Anyang Cheetahs to the capital in order to use the vacant Seoul World Cup Stadium.

It was something that has rankled among the football family ever since, and the nickname of ‘FC Immoral’ is still used. 

At a time when the K-League was enjoying unprecedented international attention, FC Seoul made global headlines for something else entirely.

The club has been accused of bringing shame to the K-League, it was accused of, at a time when the world was watching, making Korean football a laughing stock and worse.

Seoul could be punished, as damaging the league’s prestige is a breach of the league’s regulations. 

Behind the scenes, Seoul is a club in turmoil.

Fans are unhappy, the management is unhappy and officials are unhappy. Now much depends on the players.

Seoul almost got relegated in 2018 but bounced back to take third last season, albeit with never being close to the title race.

Choi Yong-soo returned as coach after having success in a first spell from 2012 to 2016. 

It remains to be seen how Seoul deal with the anger and the embarrassment of the last few days.

This is a club that has been one of the most professionally run in Korea for years and it is one that has always talked of increasing its international profile.

Not like this however. The anger is not just coming from outside but from inside the club too.

Now, somehow, Seoul have to deal with this and focus on changing the headlines and focus on football.

If they fail, there will be plenty of fans and rival teams happy.