Give yourself a sporting chance

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Give yourself a sporting chance

allelujah for the two-day weekend and Korean sports stars. Combine the two, and you’ll see the driving forces behind the leisure boom that is consuming Korea.
The country is now Asia’s second-largest market for the sports-and-leisure industry. Koreans spent 7.8 trillion won ($6.3 billion) on recreational activities in 2001, and that number has exploded over the past couple of years.
Competition within the industry is fierce. That’s good news for consumers, because it means more leisure activities and products to choose from, often at lower prices.
You can check out the latest in sports gear at the Seoul International Sports and Leisure Exhibition, running through Monday at the COEX mall in southern Seoul.
Among the more innovative products are a remote-controlled snowboard, quick-absorption and anti-bacterial sports towels, a collapsible mini scooter with a Mitsubishi engine and a multifunction/multimedia treadmill that can play movies, music and allow Internet surfing.
Friday night kicks off with performances by an inline skating team and a fashion show, with the requisite swimsuit category. There will be a fitness clinic and seminars on scuba diving.
This is the first time the Korea International Trade Association and the Seoul Olympic Sports Promotion Foundation have combined their events to create a super-sized show. Visit www.spoex.com for more information.

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Aerial Sports

The Wright brothers brought us closer to the sky, but the romance of airplanes these days has largely been lost. They may be fast vehicles, but unless you’ve a window seat, it’s hard to feel like you’re part of something grand.
Which is where aerial sports come in. Be it flying the ultralight (a plane that weighs less than 115 kilograms), paragliding, hang gliding, parachuting, or taking a hot air balloon ride, these air sports take us closer to kissing the sky.
Some of the best sites in Korea are Mungyeong in North Gyeongsang province and Danyang in North Chungcheong province. Boseong in South Jeolla is hosting a paragliding competition April 5 to 6. More than 200 of Korea’s elite will be attending.
For more information, visit www.khpga.org.

Schools and organizations:
Delta Club (www.deltaclub.net): A hang gliding club with photos and a community bulletin board.
Fly Korea (www.flykorea.co.kr): Offers four-day beginner’s course to a certification course for the serious flyer. Clients have flown in from around the world for tours with Fly Korea.
Korea Hang and Para Gliding Association (www.khpga.org): The national association. Well connected throughout the country and can handle virtually any question on hang gliding or para glididing.

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Elsewhere in Korea

In honor of the Seoul International Sports & Leisure Exhibition, the JoongAng Daily has put together a list of Top 10 fitness activities for 2003. Topping the list, according to the expo’s organizers, is in-line skating and in-line hockey. But there's also water skiing by the Han River, hang gliding from cliffs and pumping up at the gym. Not all of the sports in the Top 10 are at the sports exhibition.
Some of these sports require agility, others take guts, still others can be enjoyed at any age. So when you're through with the sports expo, head back outside. After all, who wants to be stuck inside a building when the great outdoors is calling?

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Hiking


Koreans love their mountains so much that no one in Korea “goes hiking” but rather “goes to the mountain.”
Numerous hiking clubs organize trips to the peninsula’s most spectacular peaks in the Seorak and Bukhan mountains.
Among them is Trek Korea, a company that organizes backpacking trips ranging from two days to as long as two weeks with an English-speaking guide. The USO also organizes hikes on most weekends for their English-speaking hiking club. There are also a number of online communities for hikers.
Many Korean mountain trails take just a few hours to complete. Longer routes often have places to stay along the trail, so you can make hiking a weekend affair.
Since the terrain can be rough, it’s wise to get a good pair of waterproof hiking boots as well as water, sunscreen, rain gear and a hat.

Korea National Parks
Service:
www.npa.or.kr
Trek Korea:
www.trekkorea.com
USO Hiking Club:
(02) 795-0392

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In-line hockey

The recent explosion in popularity of in-line skating has given birth to another trend: in-line hockey. A fast-paced sport, in-line hockey, a derivative of ice hockey, is usually played by teams of four players and a goalie.
The Korea Inline Hockey Association will be hosting the KINHA Cup in September, where 32 of the best Korean in-line hockey teams will face off against each other to claim the national title.
So whether you’re a member of one of the top-flight teams in Korea or a weekend warrior looking for a pick-up game, Seoul’s abundance of asphalt and concrete makes in-line hockey a sport that can be enjoyed almost anytime, anywhere. And best of all, it’s a simple sport that requires minimal gear.

Korea Inline Hockey Association:
www.koreainlinehockey.com
(02) 6737-0141

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Mountain Biking

There are numerous trails in Korea, but due to extremely rough terrain, steepness and other factors, many of them are off-limits to mountain bikers.
There are some trails near Seoul, however, that are suitable for mountain biking, whether you’re a beginner or an expert.
Mount Ilja and Mount Umyeon have trails just for newbies, while Mount Acha and Mount Mangwoo provide more of a challenge for experienced riders.
According to Jung Han-shik, who has been riding around Seoul’s peaks for years, the first few rides may be scary, but conquering that fear is a rush.
New mountain bikes range in price from 700,000 won to 1,400,000 won. But before you make a purchase, be sure the bicycle matches both your size and riding style.

For trails in Korea, log on to
www.trailsource.com
Choose the Asian region and click on Korea.

Mountain Bike Specialty Store:
X-Bike, (02) 3436-0170

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Rafting

Rafting and ecotourism go hand in hand. Three major river sites are Dong River in Gangwon province, the Hantan River in Gangwon province and the Geumgan River in North Jeolla province. These rivers are safe enough for children, with just enough turbulence to make a trip exciting. If you're lucky, you'll pass wild birds, pasturing animals and the ocassional villager.
You can plan a day trip focused on rafting, or pack a tent for an overnight trip. Many of the rafting sites have campsites nearby or motels. Rafting companies provide lifejackets and helmets. Bring old clothes.
The guides are Korean, but if you book a trip though a travel agent, you will be able to find and English-speaking guide.

Organizers:
Rapid Stream Camp (www.hanjaco.kr) has courses ranging from one day to 2 1/2 days at the Joyang River in Gangwon province.
Orient Tourism (www.orienttourism.co.kr/tours_2/sports_tour/e_watersports/rafting.htm) has rafting on the Inje River in Gangwon province, April to October.
USO (02-795-3028): Calendar of tours are updated monthly. Reservations required and should be made two weeks before departure date.
TrekKorea (www.trekkorea.com): Tour group has rafting trips along the Dong River.

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Rock Climbing

Rock climbing, a challenging sport combining strength, agility and concentration, looks to be on the verge of becoming a popular sport in mountainous Korea. It has already has a following at indoor climbing walls and climbing schools that teach basic techniques as well as safety.
Although the number of rock climbing areas in Korea pales in comparison to the number of hiking trails, there are some near Seoul to try out. For example, Mount Bukhan is worth climbing.
A rock climber’s gear consists of special climbing shoes, a harness, a rope and a chalk bag.
For rock climbing in Korea, www.rockclimbing.com lists 18 climbing areas. On the Web site, find the “Routes” section, click on “Asia” and then on “Korea.” The Korea Mountain Climbing School can also be reached at (02) 766-6405.

Also online, check out:
www.sportclimbing.net
www.tclimbing.com

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In-line skating

Be it children darting along the streets, teenagers performing tricks or middle-aged men and women looking for a new way to exercise, chances are you’ve seen someone on in-line skates. With a pair of these skates strapped to your feet, any one of Seoul’s concrete jungles can become your personal racetrack.
Due to the relative ease of learning, and with nothing but the skates to buy, in-line skating’s popularity has taken off in Korea. Among the popular places are the Olympic Sports Complex in southern Seoul and the various parks that line the Han River. A small warning about the skating alongside the Han, however, is that the uneven sidewalks and potholes have led to more than a few injuries. It’s a scenic area, but there are inherent dangers.
Drawing on the popularity of in-line skating, the Seoul World Inline Cup Marathon will be held on April 13 at the Jamsil Sports Complex. About 6,000 racers are expected to participate, including some of the world’s top skaters. Amateurs are also welcome to enter the full and half marathon courses, as well as the 5K race. The race’s Web site also contains links for a number of in-line skating clubs in and around Seoul.

Seoul World Inline Cup Marathon:
marathon.munhwa.com/inline
(02) 3701-5800
Roller Sports Federation of Korea:
(02) 420-4277
In-line skating club:
www.aba.or.kr
Places to skate in Korea:
www.skatelog.com/countries/kr/
seoul.htm

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Snowboarding and Skiing

The snowboard revolution continues. Ski resorts like Yongpyong saw an increase in snowboarders this past season. The ratio of skiiers to snowboarders was 4.5 snowboarder to 5.5 skiiers in the 2001/2002 season. In the 2002/2003 season, there were 6 snowboarders for every four skiiers.
But resort organizers predict that snowboarding will increase only slightly, stabilize then decrease within the next three years. “New school skiing is going to hit Korea in a big way,” says Jung Young-cheol with Yongpyong Resort.
At the vanguard of new school skiing are the snowboard, the skiboard ― think mini snowboards attached to each foot ― and twin tip skis, which are short, light and wide skis that allow skiiers to challenge snowboarders for stunts.
“It’s not like the skiing your parents and grandparents did,” says ski filmmaker Murray Wais of Matchstick Productions. There’s even a video called “Groms” featuring New School Skiiers aged 9 to 16.
In this warm weather, get a head start on skiing by getting indoor lessons.

Winter time in Korea: Alps Resort (www.alpsresort.co.kr), Bearstown (www.bearstown.com), Chonmasan Ski Resort (www.chonmaski.com), Muju Resort (www.mujuresort.com), Phoenix Park (www.phoenixpark.co.kr), Sajo Resort (www.sajoresort.co.kr), Seoul Ski Resort (www.seoulresort.co.kr), Yangji Pine Resort (www.pineresort.com), Yongpyong (www.yongpyong.co.kr).
Indoor lessons: Island Indoor Ski (www.ilsanindoorski.com), Ski Land (www.skiland.co.kr), Mipil Skiland (www.skinara.net).

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Fitness Centers

From bare-bones weight rooms for the hardcore bodybuilder to full-service health spas with all the amenities, there’s bound to be a fitness center that’s right for you.
While most neighborhoods in Seoul have got a health club or two, the current fitness craze is increasing the number of high-quality health clubs. Products include new treadmills with greater options and weight-training machines that lessen the impact on the joints.
The two main forms of exercise are aerobic and anaerobic. Aerobic exercise keeps the cardiovascular system healthy. Examples include running, biking, and swimming. Anaerobic exercises generally involve weight lifting and other strength training. Most fitness centers in Korea offer both.
Two worldwide fitness franchises have gyms in Korea. Gold’s Gym, has three locations in Korea, including two in Seoul. California Fitness Centers has two locations: Myeongdong and Apgujeong-dong.
Gold’s Gym, East Seoul: (02) 2274-1861
Gold’s Gym, West Seoul: (02) 2461-0828
California Fitness Centers, Apgujeong-dong: (02) 2106-0999
California Fitness Centers, Myeongdong: (02) 318-9999

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Water Sports

For years, the Han River was the stuff that nightmares were made of. It was so dirty that people were afraid to even dip a toe into the waterway, let alone swim in it. Luckily for water-sports enthusiasts, the river is now cleaner.
Several places along the Han now offer water skiing, windsurfing and jetskiing. You can take classes or rent the equipment and take off on your own. Most of the rental shops open in early April.
Water sports are popular with Seoul residents. “Nothing beats the thrill of gliding on top of the water,” says Shi Dong-gu, a water skiing instructor.
If you want to get in on the action on a weekend, get to the river early.

Places in Seoul: Ttukseom, Banpo, Jamwon and Nanji Lessons: Designers Club, (02) 518-5445
Outside of Seoul: Cheongpyeong, Gyeonggi province, and Yangsuri, Gyeonggi province


by Joe Yong-hee

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