Team Canada will begin to play ball at the World Baseball Classic on Thursday, competing in a pool against the Dominican Republic, Colombia, and the United States in Miami.
But the tournament actually began in Seoul on Monday, with South Korea hosting its own first round robin pool against Israel, Chinese Taipei, and the Netherlands. It’s just one more international sporting event taking place in the next Olympic host country ahead of PyeongChang 2018.
This is the fourth edition of the World Baseball Classic, previously held in 2006, 2009, and 2013. South Korea has captured two medals (silver in 2009, bronze in 2006) in one of their most popular spectator sports. The Korean Baseball Organization, formed in 1981, now has 10 teams in its league.
Olympic fans will see the return of baseball at Tokyo 2020, which is promising news for Korean fans who will be looking to cheer their country to another gold medal. South Korea captured gold the last time baseball appeared in the Olympic Games at Beijing 2008.
Beyond baseball, South Korea is known to be dominant in many other sports. Here is a brief history:
Originating in Korea, taekwondo is the country’s national sport and one of its most recognizable. Since the official Olympic debut of taekwondo at Sydney 2000, South Korea has dominated the podium with 19 medals, twelve of which are gold.
Fun fact: Taekwondo is part of the training regimen for South Korea’s military.
Korean women have certainly made their mark in the golfing world. The success began when Se Ri Pak won the US Women’s Open in 1998. Since then, Korean women have continued to be a dominant force on the LPGA Tour. In the most recent World Golf Rankings, six South Korean women were ranked in the top 10.
Fun fact: Inbee Park won the gold medal at Rio 2016 and was also inducted into the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame that same year.
Soccer has become increasingly popular in South Korea since the country co-hosted the 2002 FIFA World Cup. In that tournament, South Korea became the first Asian team to reach the semifinals of the World Cup.
Fun fact: South Korea was the first Asian team to win an Olympic medal in men’s soccer (bronze at London 2012) since Japan at Mexico City 1968.
Short track speed skating has given Korean fans lots of excitement over the years. With 42 Olympic short track medals, South Korea sits atop the leaderboard. At Turin 2006, the country captured ten medals, winning gold in six of the eight events. The Gangneung Ice Arena will certainly be rocking with Korean fans at PyeongChang 2018.
Fun fact: Not only does South Korea have the most Olympic medals, it also has the most gold medals with 21 – 12 more than any other nation.
In South Korea, professional gamers are treated like royalty and their competitions are often televised. Considered a national sport in South Korea (though not technically recognized as a sport), gamers spend hours practicing every day just like pro athletes. In 2000, Korea became the leader for the development of e-sports when they added Korea e-Sports association as a branch to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.
Fun fact: One of the stadiums used for the 2002 FIFA World Cup is now often packed with e-Sports fans cheering on professional gamers.
Archery has been an extremely successful sport for South Korea at the Olympic Games. South Korea leads the Olympic medal count for archery with 39, including 23 gold.
Fun Fact: South Korea has won every Olympic gold medal in the women’s team event since it debuted at Seoul 1988.