Is cricket popular in South Korea?
When it comes to cricket, its prominence resides more in countries like India and Pakistan. What a lot of people don’t know is that the sport is also played in South Korea.
While it may not appear like South Korea is a nation that enjoys cricket, there is actually a dedicated league and a good number of people who watch the sport. Below is everything you need to know about the cricket scene in South Korea and why it’s a sport that is increasingly growing more prominent in the country:
History of cricket in South Korea
In the 1980s, cricket was introduced to South Korea by foreigners who lived in the country and played in domestic leagues and tournaments. In 2001, South Korea became affiliated with the International Cricket Council (ICC) which is a governing body for international cricket in both men’s and women’s leagues.
A year after its affiliation, Korea took an 8-side team that comprised mostly of expat players to Australia. Their first international participation was in the ICC EAP 8s tournament in Perth in 2002. They rose to fourth place in the tournament that also involved Japanese, Australian, and Indonesian Aborigines teams.
In 2017, they took the next big leap forward to Korean cricket during the ICC Pepsi Global Development funding. This created the Korean Cricket Association (KCA) which is the country’s dedicated cricket organisation which afforded them more opportunities to develop young cricket players and form new teams.
While not as prominent as other popular sports in South Korea like football and baseball, cricket slowly became a nationally-recognised sport. Thanks to the growth of the KCA and more players joining the fray to play for Korea’s national and local teams, cricket continues to gain traction over time.
What is the KCA: Korea’s most prominent cricket organisation
Cricket was relatively an unknown sport in South Korea until the 1980s. As it grew more popular, the country created its own governing cricket organisation known as the Korean Cricket Association.
This operates and manages the Korean National cricket team for the men’s and women’s divisions. It is currently located in Seoul, South Korea. KCA is also South Korea’s representative at the ICC and is a dedicated association member of said organisation since 2001. The KCA is also part of the East Asia-Pacific Cricket Council.
The importance of the 2014 Asian games
Due to South Korea’s willing participation in cricket and how it formed its official sport organisation known as the KCA, they had amazing runs in important tournaments. This made the country a prominent figure in the cricket world.
One of these instances was during the 2014 Asian games, more specifically in the cricket division. Cricket was among the 36 medal sports at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea and was played in T20 format.
During the competition, South Korea hosted the games in Incheon and the national team made it to the quarter finals of the tournament. However, they lost to Sri Lanka which eliminated them from going further into the later rounds.
Sri Lanka is known as one of the most prominent cricket teams in the world and South Korea being able to play against them is already a step towards a good direction for the sport.
How Sungkyunkwan University aided in the development of cricket in Korea
Surprisingly, Sungkyunkwan University played an important part in providing the needed facilities and avenue for cricket. The Physical Education Department officially made cricket a part of the sports curriculum in all Universities in South Korea.
Due to cricket being a part of the curriculum, a lot of Korean student athletes are developing into cricket stars which made the sport much more popular. The interest grew rapidly when the squad joined in the 2011 Pepsi ICC EAP Division 2 Cricket Trophy in Samoa where they secured the 5th position.
Media coverage increasing cricket popularity in South Korea
The Korean National Cricket Team’s quest to create a squad without assistance from government agencies was showcased in the 2013 documentary ‘Bowling For Gold’. This was aired on Arirang TV’s program, Arirang Prime.
The documentary also featured the team’s training in India where they played against youth teams and received good wisdom from Indian coaches. There was also coverage of their visit to Mohali Stadium to watch an IPL match and meet notable players like Adam Gilchrist.
The attention to dedicating media coverage for cricket in South Korea has significantly increased its fame that helped make the sport more prominent in the country. Also, it gave the opportunity for South Korean viewers to learn more about cricket in other places like India and Pakistan.
The 2018-19 ICC T20 World Cup East Asia-Pacific Qualifier
The Korean cricket national team also participated during the 2018-19 ICC World Twenty20 East Asia Pacific Qualifier. They competed in this tournament for the first time since 2011 and proved why they are a rising young squad in the competition.
They finished an impressive standing of second only above Japan who eventually became champions. Also, they superseded Indonesia in the tournament who won the bronze medal a season prior in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games. This was a huge leap forward and an important cornerstone in South Korea’s quest to make cricket a more popular game in the country.
Current state of cricket in South Korea
Both the Korean National Women team and Korean National Men team are supervised by Nasir Khan. Aside from being the coach of both teams, he also serves as the vice chairman of KCA. Khan was appointed to do so because he is one of the few individuals who witnessed how cricket grew in the country. On the other hand, among the South Korean cricket players who impressed India when he visited the country is Park Taekwan.
Unlike other sporting events in the country, cricket in South Korea seems to be out of the spotlight. What keeps cricket alive in South Korea are the South Asian immigrants who are well-invested in the sport. Nevertheless, there are still several South Korean cricket players who dream to play in the international cricket scene.
South Korea’s more prominent sports other than cricket
Despite all efforts to make cricket as popular as the more prominent sports in the country, there are still other sporting avenues that simply get the attention of most South Korean viewers. The development of cricket’s fame is definitely moving at a snail’s pace, but at least it’s heading towards a positive direction.
Baseball and football are more prominent sports
Some of the most notable examples of more prominent sports in South Korea are football and baseball. Compared to these two, cricket simply has a lot to go through to make it as famous as those sports.
For starters, the Korean Baseball Organisation (KBO) is an immensely popular South Korean sports league which garners a lot of sports fans to watch fun and exciting baseball games. It also had a huge head start where it was established in 1982. The KBO simply had more time to develop into a big league in South Korea than the KCA.
Additionally, South Korea’s most popular football league known as the K League 1 is close second to the KBO as the most prominent sports league in the country. Football also dominates the South Korean sporting scene and numerous national teams have participated in the sport’s grandest tournament known as the FIFA World Cup.
Cricket will continue to increase in popularity as years wane
While it may seem like a lost case for cricket to gain as much popularity as the other more prominent sports in the country, time will ultimately tell if it’s going to be the case. Remember, the country itself and the KCA have actively ensured that cricket will be introduced to newer generations of fans and players.
With the implementation of the sport in universities and colleges, it’s slowly going to increase in value and fame as years wane for sure. Comparing cricket to football and baseball is quite unfair given their massive cultural backing and head start. Considering how fairly new the KCA is and how cricket just started to gain traction in South Korea, it’s impressive to say the least that the sport is even relevant in the country.
Cricket is undoubtedly a widely popular sport across the world. South Korea is only starting to make the sport much more accessible and popular, and it’s slowly inching towards that goal in making it a nationally recognised sport like the others.
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