Korean 'superfan' of Royals back in KC - KCTV5 News

Korean 'superfan' of Royals back in KC

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Sung Woo Lee, a die-hard, long-time Kansas City Royals fan from Seoul became an international celebrity after he was superstitiously credited with sparking the team's playoff run. Sung Woo Lee, a die-hard, long-time Kansas City Royals fan from Seoul became an international celebrity after he was superstitiously credited with sparking the team's playoff run.
(Courtesy: Jacob Orlowski) (Courtesy: Jacob Orlowski)
(Courtesy: Jacob Orlowski) (Courtesy: Jacob Orlowski)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV/AP) -

A die-hard, long-time Kansas City Royals fan from Seoul who became an international celebrity after he was superstitiously credited with sparking the team's playoff run arrived in Kansas City Tuesday to watch the Royals appear in their first World Series since 1985.

SungWoo Lee arrived in Kansas City in the afternoon after a 17-hour flight and was greeted by a crowd of supporters at the Kansas City International Airport.

“Oh I just think it's wonderful. It's such a good thing for Kansas City and hopefully he'll bring us good luck,” Royals fan Linda Fleetwood said.

“You see how enthusiastic he is. You know he's like the super fan of all the Royals. You know he's like the ultimate fan that everybody wants to be, you know, excited like that, so that's why everybody loves him,” Royals fan Victor Hunt said.

After learning of his passion for their team, a group of American fans helped Lee arrange a visit to Kansas City in August so he could watch a Royals game in person for the first time. By the time Lee returned to Seoul, the Royals, perennial also-rans, had won nine out of 10 games and were in first place in their division, and Lee had gained widespread fame among sports fans in the United States and in South Korea.

“Last August Royals swept the Giants under my watch, so I believe these Royals can do this again for the World Series,” he said.

The 38-year-old duty free shop employee is reluctant to make World Series predictions because of worries about jinxing the team.

“I think that's too much, but if the Royals can win and the people enjoy it, I (will) take it,” Lee said.

But he also said he can't help imagining a celebration with Royals' players in a champagne-soaked locker room.

“I thought it couldn't be much more better than last time because it's my second visit, so still so nervous. My heart is pumping loud, seems like (it will) pop out right now,” Lee said.

Despite being considered a good luck charm by the club and its fan base, Lee said in a telephone interview Monday night that he doesn't feel any pressure.

"I just want to root for the team with fellow Royals fans as hard as I can," he said. "I will try to enjoy every moment."

Lee belongs to a generation of South Korean sports fans in their 30s and 40s who developed an attachment to American professional sports by watching a local TV network for U.S. servicemen stationed in South Korea to guard the heavily-armed border with North Korea. He manages to catch most games on television despite the odd hours they usually air.

Free from the obligations of supporting the "local" team, South Korean fans often developed interests in major league teams for quirky reasons. Some of them, for instance, began cheering for the New York Yankees because they thought the team had the best uniforms. Others supported the Atlanta Braves because of Fred McGriff's exaggerated swing motion.

Lee, who has more than 21,800 followers on Twitter, said he began supporting the Royals because he fell in love with Kauffman Stadium when he saw it in the early 90s in a short highlight package shown on what was then known as the American Forces Korea Network.

"The Royals won, and they did the fireworks show afterward with the fountain and the crown logo on the stadium in the background," Lee said. "It was amazing and beautiful."

An official from Lee's employer, Shinsegae Duty Free, thought that Lee's international celebrity was both surprising and amusing. As soon as the Royals reached the World Series, the company found itself receiving huge attention about whether it would allow Lee to attend. Lee joined Shinsegae just a month ago in a busy time when the company is preparing a bid for a new shop at the Incheon International Airport.

"We have arranged his vacation days so that he could stay in the U.S. throughout the run of the World Series," company official Lee Jeong-wook said. He added, with a laugh: "If the Royals win in four, his vacation will be cut short."

There was at least one more celebrity who flew in on Lee's flight and went relatively unnoticed coming out of the same gate. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy is close friends with Royal Manager Ned Yost.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, I gotta do more interviews about Ned.' I walked right through the middle, nobody stopped me. Paul Rudd is behind me, he walked right through the middle, nobody stopped him. It's all for the Korean Superfan, so this is a baseball-crazy town right now,” Foxworthy joked outside.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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