Sport in South Korea

Main article: Sport in Korea

South Korea has traditional sports of its own, as well as sports from different cultures and countries.

Sports originating from Korea

Taekwondo, a popular martial sport is often claimed to have historical origins on the Korean peninsula with origins said to have been traced as far back as the 1st century BCE. However, such historical claims are difficult to empirically verify and separate from the influences of neighboring counties. The sport rose to prominence following the end of Japanese occupation with the end of WWII. Formalized rules were established in 1961 and in 1988 the sport became an Olympic event. The name "Taekwondo" literally means way of foot and fist, although the modern emphasis lies on the kicks. This may be a way to help legitimize the sport's connection to the traditional practice called Taekkyeon, which originated in Korea during the Goguryeo period in the 4th century. Taekkyeon uses open hands and the feet, where as the use of clenched fists is not permitted. The motions are smoother and more curvilinear than in Taekwondo. Although both disciplines start with the sound "tae" in English, there is no relationship.

Although there is much controversy regarding the historical origins of many martial disciplines in South Korea, there is little question that, Koreanized or traditional in origin, Korean martial arts and sports have enjoyed considerable success. Styles such as Hapkido, Kuk Sool, Hwarangdo, Han Moo Do, Yudo, Kumdo, Goog-sool, and many others arose quickly out of an independent Korea and have spread to countries around the world. Although they are not as popular as Taekwondo, they each uniquely represent the Korean martial spirit which dates back to antiquity. Unlike Japanese martial arts which often use "-do" at a name's end (meaning "way"), traditional Korean martial arts were called "Mu Sool" or "Mu Yea". This could lead to some confusion since although the "do" in Taekwondo and Hapkido means "way" (as in Karate-do and Aikido), the historical meaning in Hwarangdo is different from the modern usage (also "way" like the others). When that martial art was invented in the 1960s, the name was borrowed from an ancient group (do) consisting mainly of the children of the gentry class (yangban) for learning military tactics, leadership, and fighting skills.

Popular sports

Football and baseball have traditionally been regarded as the most popular sports in Korea.[1] Recent polling indicates that a majority, 41% of South Korean sports fans continue to self-identify as football fans, with baseball ranked 2nd at 25% of respondents. However, the polling did not indicate the extent to which respondents follow both sports.[2] The national football team became the first team in the Asian Football Confederation to reach the FIFA World Cup semi-finals in the 2002 FIFA World Cup, jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan. The Korea Republic national team (as it is known) has qualified for every World Cup since Mexico 1986, and has broken out of the group stage twice: first in 2002, and again in 2010, when it was defeated by eventual semi-finalist Uruguay in the Round of 16. At the 2012 Summer Olympics, South Korea won the Bronze Medal for football.

South Korea, which competes internationally under the name of "Korea Republic", has qualified for nine FIFA World Cups including the most recent 2014 tournament (Asian record), and co-hosted the 2002 World Cup, finishing in 4th place. Also in 2010, the country's under-17 women's team won the 2010 FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in Trinidad and Tobago, claiming South Korea's first-ever title in worldwide FIFA competition. The K-League is the oldest domestic professional football league in Asia. A huge number of tiny amateur football gatherings are active and immensely popular.

Baseball is another one of the most popular sports in South Korea. It was introduced in 1905 by American missionaries and carries a strong following today. Professional teams owned by large conglomerates (chaebols) compete in the Korea Professional Baseball league. Korea won the Gold Medal in baseball at the 2008 Olympic Games. Korea is also a regular participant in the World Baseball Classic, and is considered one of the best baseball countries in international competition. Several Korean players have gone on to play in Major League Baseball. The domestic KBO League consistently draws 6 to 7 million total fans per year, averaging approximately 11,000 spectators per game, both highest among professional spectator sports in South Korea.[3]

Korean baseball player Kim Hyun-Soo in the outfield during the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

Another sport gaining popularity in South Korea is basketball. Professional basketball teams compete in the Korean Basketball League. The South Korea national basketball team won a record number of 23 medals at the Asian Basketball Championship. The only Korean NBA player to date has been Ha Seung-Jin who played there in 2005-06. Another prominent Korean basketball player is Moon Tae-Jong who appeared at the 2005 and 2006 FIBA EuroCup All-Star Day.

Ice hockey is slowly emerging as fans in Anyang city sees sell-out games for Anyang Halla hockey club, which became the first non-Japanese club to win the championship title for Asia League Ice Hockey. South Korea has 4 teams participating in the Asia League Ice Hockey championship.

Popular throughout Asia, Badminton is played by many Koreans. Badminton nets can be found in many outdoor recreation parks. Korean players often reach the finals in regional and world championships. Bowling is a popular sport in South Korea, with many local leagues. Computerized systems are commonplace.

Fishing and hiking are common activities in South Korea. Fishing is popular in streams, rivers, and the oceans. There are arranged fishing tours. Hiking in the Korean mountains is very popular, and weekend after weekend popular areas fill with people.

Golf is very popular in South Korea. It is often thought that this is linked to the fact that golf is considered a status symbol. Membership in golf clubs in South Korea is considerably more expensive than in Japan or the US. South Korea is especially strong in women's golf; 47 Koreans play on the world's leading women's tour, the LPGA tour in the [United States]. The best-known Korean golfer is Pak Se-ri.

Scuba diving is popular on Jeju island.

South Korea women's national handball team is one of two non-European countries to have won the World Championship and the only one to have captured Olympic gold.

Korea is home to a number of good alpine skiing slopes. Snowboarding was not allowed in most resorts until recently.. Ice skating is also a very popular sport which sees kids even as young as 5 years old starting to compete and getting private coaching on a daily basis.

Rugby union is played to some degree in South Korea, with the Korean team being currently ranked 24th in the world (as of March 2015) in the current IRB world rankings. Korea have been participating in the Asian Five Nations since 2008 with a 3rd-place finish in 2014. Most of South Korea's national rugby team players play their club rugby in Japan as South Korea doesn't have a professional league. The national rugby sevens side finished third in the Asian qualifier for the 2016 Olympic Games, reaching the final qualifying tournament, but was unable to proceed past first-round group play in the final qualifier.

Cricket is not that common, but South Korea did enter a national team during the 2014 Asian Games which saw them beat the People's Republic of China. Cricket is mostly played by expats and a league only exists in Seoul and the surrounding suburbs; the side for the Asian Games, which could only draw from South Korean citizens, consisted partially of converted baseball players.[4]

Table tennis is popular in South Korea. There are minor leagues in many universities.

E-sports have found a strong home in South Korea, StarCraft professional competition being the largest example of these. Major corporate sponsored teams and leagues have formed in e-Sports, the most notable leagues being the OnGameNet Starleague, the MBCGame StarCraft League (retired), and Proleague. Some television stations are devoted to broadcasting electronic sports, such as Ongamenet, GomTV, and formerly MBCGame. The Korean e-Sports Association, an arm of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, was founded in 2000 to promote and regulate esports in the country.[5]

South Korea has hosted the annual Formula One Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam from 2010 until 2013. However, South Korea has yet to have a driver on the grid.

Major sport events

Fireworks at the closing ceremonies of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul

Olympic Games

The 1988 Summer Olympics were celebrated in Seoul from September 17 to October 2, 1988. They were the second summer Olympic Games to be held in Asia and the first since the 1964 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan.

In the Seoul Games, 160 nations were represented by a total of 8391 athletes: 6197 men and 2194 women. 237 events were held. 27221 volunteers helped to prepare the Olympics. 11331 media (4978 written press and 6353 broadcasters) showed the Games all over the world.

These were the last Olympic Games for two of the world's "dominating" sport powers, Soviet Union and East Germany, as both ceased to exist before the next Olympic Games.

North Korea, still officially at war with South Korea, and its allies, Albania, Cuba, Madagascar and Seychelles boycotted the games. For differing reasons, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, and Albania (who declared an Olympic-record fourth consecutive boycott) did not participate in the Games. However, the much larger boycotts seen in the previous three Summer Olympics were avoided, resulting in the largest ever number of participating nations to that date.

North Korea and South Korea marched together in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics, and were likely to do so again in 2008, however they did not. (See Sports in North Korea.)

The 2018 Winter Olympics is scheduled to take place in Pyeongchang between 9 and 25 February 2018. Pyeongchang won on its third consecutive bid. After a series of large cities (Nagano to Sochi), for the first time since Lillehammer 1994 the Winter Olympics returned to a mountain resort.

FIFA World Cup

The 2002 FIFA World Cup was held in Korea and Japan with extreme success. More than 10 million Koreans came to the streets to support their team in the semifinals against Germany.

The 2002 FIFA World Cup was the 17th staging of the FIFA World Cup, held in South Korea and Japan from 31 May to 30 June. It was also the first World Cup held in Asia, and the last in which the golden goal rule was implemented. Brazil won the tournament for a record fifth time, beating Germany 2–0 in the final. Turkey beat South Korea 3–2 in the third place match.

Korea professional sports

  •  ROAD Fighting Championship
  •  TOP Fighting Championship

International Championship Host


  1. "하는 운동 ´걷기´, 보는 운동 ´축구´, 하려는 운동 ´수영´". EBN. 2009-08-19. Retrieved 2013-08-10.
  2. "한국갤럽조사연구소". 2009-05-20. Retrieved 2013-08-10.
  3. "프로스포츠 운영 현황 지표". EBN. 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  4. "Baseball comes to the rescue for South Korean cricket at Asian Games". The National (United Arab Emirates). 2014-09-27. Retrieved 2016-12-01.
  5. "History of Korea e-Sports Association 1999–2004" (in Korean). KeSPA. Retrieved 2013-10-07.
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