Women hit stride at Jeju race track

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Women hit stride at Jeju race track

Three local women who work at Jeju Race Park are breaking up what was a male-dominated sport at Korea’s only pony racing track.
Kim Ju-hee, 24, is a female jockey; Kang Jung-min, 31, is a camera monitor; and Yang Ji-hye, 23, is a stadium announcer. The park could not function without them.
Ms. Kim is the park’s first female jockey and the sixth in Korea. A native of Incheon, she began competitive racing in elementary school and was an official athlete of Paju City in Gyeonggi province in the 400-meter hurdles before she retired last year.
“I wanted to try something new, so I decided to be a jockey and I trained for about a year,” Ms. Kim said. Last month, she rode in her first race and finished in fourth place.
In various races she participated in afterwards, she averaged second or third place, quickly becoming noted as a rising talent and attracting attention of fellow professionals and fans alike.
Capturing the success of Ms. Kim is Ms. Kang, who became the first female photo-finish judge 10 years ago, an occupation that was even unpopular among men at the time.
After graduating in photography at Jeju Tourism University, Ms. Kang got a job at Jeju Racing Park and experienced much difficulty as a fresh female recruit.
“Women were treated badly by the jockeys and were not even allowed near the horse stalls,” Ms. Kang recalled.
All that has changed now, however. The cameras at the finish line were switched to digital cameras at her insistence and she is now known more for her beautiful shots of Jeju’s native breed of pony, who come trotting at her whistle. She also takes promotional photos for the park.
Ms. Yang is the youngest of the trio and joined just recently. A graduate of media studies and a skilled belly dancer, she is the first female announcer to join the park’s broadcasting team.
She currently does informational broadcasts and interviews jockeys for the park’s station.
“Someday I hope to comment on the actual races and become a real racing announcer,” Ms. Yang said.

by Yang Seong-cheol
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