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South Korean fan in World Cup suicide

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SEOUL (Reuters) - A South Korea man in his mid-twenties died Friday after setting himself on fire and leaving a chilling suicide note saying he wanted to be "a ghost and the 12th player" for his team in the World Cup, police said.

"I'm choosing death because South Korea has to go far to compete with the Latin American and European teams. I will be a ghost and the 12th player on the pitch and do my best for our team," police in the southeastern city of Pusan quoted the note as saying.

The man was found badly burned at a beach resort in Pusan on Friday and died en route to hospital, hours before South Korea takes on Portugal in a match it must win or draw in order to avoid elimination from the World Cup, a city police officer said.

"Reading the suicide note, it seems it was because of the World Cup. But we are not sure, so we will have to investigate," the Pusan policeman told Reuters.

The identity of the man, who had doused himself with paint thinner and set himself on fire around noon (0300 GMT), was not immediately clear, the officer said.

The suicide note starts with "Dear Red Devils in the world" and ends with "From a Red Devil in the next life," he said.

Red Devils is the name of the South Korean supporters' club that has mobilized hundreds of thousands of fans -- both at the stadiums where the home team has been playing and to watch matches on giant outdoor television screens.

Copyright 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.