[VIEWPOINT]Where’s the Samsung Lions’ line score?Korean English language dailies are really doing the expatriate a disservice by not offering local sports coverage. As an avid fan of professional baseball in the United States, I appreciate that coverage, but find it nearly impossible to get involved in local baseball because I cannot read and understand the Korean sports dailies. I am ashamed to know the names of only a couple of Korea’s sports stars performing in this country.
I have seen many articles and announcements about various cultural shows designed to showcase certain aspects of Korean culture and society to expatriates and tourists alike. But I have never seen the Korea National Tourism Organization promote any events related to local sports since the World Cup finale. I can assure them that many of us foreigners do want to get involved in local sports and cheer on our favorite team.
Not publishing news on local Korean sports tells the Korean public that foreigners have no interest in that facet of Korean society, and that is simply not true. I noticed a couple of foreign spectators at a game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium recently and they seemed to be highly entertained by the action on the field and the solidarity of the fans in the crowd.
The local sports industry has huge potential to attract foreigners for a number of reasons. First of all, Korean sports ticket prices are extre-mely inexpensive but the entertainment value is high. In soccer, for example, Korea reached the semi-final of the World Cup, the preeminent football tournament in the world.
Several Korean baseball stars are making names for themselves in the United States ― Park Chan-ho, Kim Byung-hyun and Choi Hee-seop among others. It is only a matter of time before Lee Seung-yeob of the Samsung Lions crosses the Pacific in search of greater challenges.
Just today, I read an article about the Korean standout center Jung Sun-min being selected in the first round of the Women’s National Baseball Association by the Seattle Storm, becoming only the third Asian woman, and first from South Korea, to join the premier women’s basketball league in the world.
Who would have imagined the exponential growth in popularity of American baseball, basketball and golf in Korea, as well as the rest of Asia, over the past 5 or 10 years. Before Park Chan-ho took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1996, baseball hardly got a second glance by the Korean and other Asian communities in the Los Angeles area. Suddenly, Parkmania swept Koreatown in Los Angeles and across the IMF-stricken homeland in 1997 and gave Koreans, no matter where they lived, a great sense of pride during an otherwise dark, forgettable period. Park Chan-ho opened the door for other players; a look at almost any big-league roster these days will show at least one Asian-born player, and ballparks across America are filled with fans of Asian descent. Yao Ming is having the same effect on the NBA. that Park had some years back. My point is that if Koreans and other Asians alike can learn to enjoy pro sports outside of their home country, there is no reason to assume that foreigners living here in Korea would not do the same.
It would be an added plus if Korean sports teams imported more high-profile foreign athletes, even aging ones, to add spice to an already colorful domestic sports scene. Foreign players are usually only used by local clubs to improve the quality of the game, rather than to create greater public interest; that is a real shame. Importing star players, whether they be in or slightly past their prime, would help pique interest in the expatriate community.
But if some hot-shot foreign player were making waves in one of the local leagues, I probably wouldn’t find out about it until mid-season at best. Without English-language coverage of local professional sports, it is impossible for foreigners to get involved. The foreign community needs local media coverage that covers the teams and profiles of star players, local broadcast schedules and information and most importantly, game time, dates and locations for the current and following day’s action. That way, foreign visitors can learn about the various leagues and develop an interest in their favorite sports and teams much like the Korean public does, and eventually become a formidable presence in the stands and a valuable potential source of revenue for local clubs suffering from declining public interest.
Korea has a great sports culture, highlighted and at its peak during the 2002 World Cup, so we can see Korea’s sporting impact on the world. The success of the World Cup and the publicity it generated should be utilized at home as well as abroad.
Please do not minimize the coverage of local sports media any longer. With more exposure and daily coverage, those visiting or staying in Seoul can cheer on the local action with Koreans side by side.
The writer is a Web site designer at SK Corp.
by Scott Fallis