The Rising Tiger: Korea

The sudden explosion of interest in sports in Korea has been closely linked to the economic boom

in industry, beginning about the middle of the century. The impressive staging of the 1988 Olympics in

Seoul, stands witness to this fact.

In the past few years there has been a tremendous emphasis on the advancement of sports policies

and rules, along with the construction of many new sport facilities. As a result, sports are now an almost

daily event for many residents, and spectator sports are becoming increasingly more popular.

Korea’s athletic history shows an impressive record of achievement in many international events

in recent years. The most dramatic achievements can be seen in the sports of soccer(football), wrestling,

boxing, and Judo. A Korean runner, Shon Kee-chung, won the gold medal for a marathon in the 1936

Olympics, but won the medal under the Japanese flag, due to the fact that Korea belonged to Japan at the

time. Korea flew it’s own flag for the first time in the Olympics at the 1948 London games.

Since then, Korean athletes have demonstrated their performances in many events, both at

home an abroad. They won one gold, one silver and four bronze medals at the 1976 Olympics in

Montreal to rank 19th out of over 100. In the 1982 Asian Games, Korea ranked third to The peoples

Republic of China and Japan. In the 1986 Asia Games, Korea came in second, trailing China by only one

gold medal.

At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympiad, Korean athletes made their best record so far, ranking

tenth in the final medal tally with 6 gold, 6 silver, and 7 bronze. This record was broken in the 1988 Seoul

Games.

Korean athletes also made a remarkable display in the 25th Olympic Games at Barcelona in

1992. Korea placed 7th out of 172 countries, with 12 gold, five silver, and 12 bronze medals. These

Olympic games were special for another reason also; Korean athletes won the first and last gold medals

of the Games. Yo Kap-sun won the first gold medal in the women’s 10 meter air rifle competition. Hwang

Young-cho won the last gold medal in a marathon, his victory hoisted the Korean flag atop the flagpole of

the main stadium just before the closing ceremony at the Barcelona Olympiad.

Korea has played host to many other international sporting events over recent years. 1978, the

42nd World Shooting Championships brought over 1300 entries from 71 countries. The Championships,

the first ever in Asia, were held at one of the worlds five finest shooting ranges, the T’aeunung

International Shooting Range, only 45 minutes from downtown Seoul. The Eighth World Basketball

Championships for Women was held in 1979 at the as the first event in the new Seoul Sports Complex in

Chamshil; it too, was the first of that kind of event held in Asia. Also, the second Asian Swimming

Championships and the Eighth Asian Junior Basketball Championships were held in Korea in 1984.

The Asian Games Federation, at a meeting in New Delhi in 1981, selected Seoul to host the

1986 Asian Games. In both official and non-official circles, it was known that hosting the Asian Games in

Korea would “demonstrate the country’s steady development in all areas along with it’s potential for

becoming an active player on the world stage. The Asian Games served as an important dress-rehearsal for

the Seoul Olympics that were to follow in two years.”

While the Asian Games were a significant event themselves, broader aspects resulted in more

than just the efforts of the organizing committee and the sports officials. The government and the people

joined in with great effort to make the Asian Games a great success. Construction was forced to breakneck

speeds for new sports facilities that were to provide both athletes and spectators with comfort along with

the most sophisticated electronic and technical equipment, which would be used in both the regional meet

and again later in the Olympics.

As another part of all the developments in the sports movement in Korea, collage students have

also been active at their own levels of competition. They have taken part in the Universiad since 1967,

making impressive showings of their discipline and determination.

Truly, Korea is a major participant in the present