Living in Seoul, Korea, as an English teacher for two years, I got to appreciate the sporting opportunities in this Asian hub and there’s certainly plenty of sports to try or to watch. Let me share with you the sporting opportunities in Korea.
South Koreans and Sport
Sports in South Korea that are especially popular include football (soccer), the national sport of Taekwondo, baseball, golf, speed skating, skiing and archery.
Sports and leisure have come to play an important part in everyday life for many Koreans, particularly in recent times.
Perhaps because of the many difficulties the country has faced in the past, Korean people tend to come together with an incredible passion when their national teams are playing.
For anyone who was in Seoul during the Football World Cup, you will, like me, have experienced several hundred thousand people filling the public squares to watch the games on large outdoor screens.
Koreans I found to be very hard workers and they, if one can generalize, have a work hard and play hard philosophy and are very competitive.
In recent years, a rise in living standards has meant a vast increase in interest and expenditure on sports such as golf and other recreational sports.
Below are some of the most popular viewer sports now in South Korea.
The influence of the American military has shown its influence with the wide popularity of baseball as a sport.
Getting a baseball glove, bat or ball is a favorite gift for many youngsters. Baseball is big here. Baseball was first played in Korea, it is believed, in 1906 and a professional league started in 1982, with 6 teams.
Two more teams were then added (one in 1986 and one in 1989). There are now in fact 10 teams in the league.
By tradition, each baseball team in the league is sponsored by a Korean corporation hence the names of the teams reflect this with the:
Korea competes at many different levels for baseball, i.e., including the Little League World Series, a title Korea won in 1984, 1985, and 2014.
Some Korean players have managed to break through to the American leagues, such as Seung-hwan Oh, Dae-ho Lee, Byung-Hyun Kim, Jae-Kuk Ryu, and Shin-soo Choo.
Whilst baseball is very popular in Korea, Koreans have a deep passion for football and this was none so more visible than when Korea shared hosting the world cup with Japan in 2002.
The streets of central Seoul were crowded and pumping with energy as South Korea reached the semi-finals of the tournament.
As a national side, South Korea tends to do very well in the Asian Cup and Asian Games, as one of the best teams in the Asian Pacific region.
The Korean Professional league is called the ‘K-League‘ and is composed of two divisions; the first division (12 teams) and the second division (11 teams). Existing teams at the moment include the:
If you visit, Seoul, the capital, one of the easiest ways to see a game is to head to Seoul World Cup Stadium, where FC Seoul is based.
Taekwondo is a martial art for self-defense that has existed in Korea for more than 2000 years.
Whilst similar in some ways to Chinese kungfu, Japanese karate, and other Korean martial arts such as hapkido and dangsudo, taekwondo tends to emphasize the use of the legs and feet through powerful kicks.
Taekwondo experts have amazed people throughout the world with their acrobatic skills, breaking boards 10 feet off the ground or hitting multiple targets in mid-air.
Taekwondo has become a Korean national sport and is a sport that focuses on the body and mind, one reason for its popularity worldwide. In fact, currently, more than 40 million people worldwide practice this sport.
Experience Taekwondo in Korea
Horse Racing in Seoul, Korea
I had the pleasure to attend a few races at Seoul Racecourse and it makes for a great day out.
When I went I saw families and a packed racecourse. The course is in a great location with a mountain range as the setting behind the course.
Getting to the course it’s relatively easy. You need to:
- Take line 4 on the Seoul subway
- and head to Seoul Racecourse Park station.
- Then just follow the signage. It’s pretty straightforward.
The course holds up to 80,000.
Short-track Speed Skating
Short-track speed skating is the latest sport in which Korea is making its mark.
In the 1992 Albertville Winter Games, Korea’s Kim Ki-Hoon won the men’s 1000 meter race and anchored the gold-winning medal for the men’s relay.
Successes also in the 1994 Lillehammer Games and the 1998 Nagano Games have further deepened the interest in this sport in Korea.
Seoul International Marathon
Location: Sejong-ro Intersection in Seoul
Finish: Olympic Stadium, Seoul.
Number of runners: Approx. 35,000
Official Website: Seoul International Marathon website
Entry Fee: Fees available on application.
To enter the marathon you must be at least 18 years old on race day and you are expected to run the Seoul marathon within 5 hours.
You can call the organizers on Tel: 82-2-2020-0708 or email them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Do not forget to also start your training early so that you are well prepared!
Skiing and Snowboarding Resorts in South Korea
Skiing and snowboarding are becoming more and more popular in South Korea, with new resorts being built all the time and this is perhaps not a surprise, considering that 70% of South Korean territory is occupied by mountains.
At the time of writing, there are 13 skiing resorts in South Korea, all very close to Seoul (the furthest are located at about 4 or 5 hours drive from Seoul) with buses available to connect Seoul with most ski resorts.
Most South Korean skiing resorts have good facilities with plenty of accommodation options, restaurants, shops, and various entertainment.
All resorts have snowmaking machines so that the skiing season can last for a long time.
Yongpyong Ski Resort and Mujiu Resort
The biggest skiing resort in South Korea is Yongpyong ski Resort, located at the foot of Palwang Mountain, about 200 km east of Seoul, at 700 – 1500 meters of altitude.
The second best, in my opinion, is Mujiu skiing resort, Korea, located in Mount Deokyu National Park, about four hours drive from Seoul. Muji resort has good facilities and outdoor hot springs.
Other Ski Resorts in South Korea
Other South Korean skiing resorts include:
- Phoenix Park, which also has a golf course for summer
- Hyundai Sungwoo Resort
- Seoul Ski Resort, the closest ski resort to Seoul, just 30 minutes away from the South Korean capital
- Suanbo Sajo Resort, which also has natural hot springs
- Yangji Pine Resort
- Jisan Forest skiing Resort, only 40 minutes from Seoul
- Bears Town resort
- Daemyung Vivaldi Park
- LG Ganchon Resort
- Star Hill
Where to Stay in Seoul
Sports Travel Booking Resources
Traveling around the world to watch & experience sports, I tend to always use the same resources for booking trips. These are the ones I use most frequently and that I find to have great customer support and competitive prices.
- Sports Event Tickets – Tickets for all sporting events
- Get Your Guide – is an excellent site as a one-stop shop for booking attractions, local tours, activities, and excursions. Great customer service and an easy-to-use site.
- Booking.com – The best site I have found for hotel and accommodation bookings.
- Flights – are also now offered by booking.com and as I love the brand this is my first port of call now for flights.
- Safety Wing Travel Insurance – I love Saftey Wing as they cover everything I need to be covered and they have a simple-to-use site, and again, I have found their customer service very good, when I needed to ask questions.
- Hostelworld – Book backpacker hostel rooms around the world with Hostel World.