Ulsan is top city for sports in Korea

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Ulsan is top city for sports in Korea

Ulsan is the best sports city in Korea, according to analysis by the JoongAng Ilbo.

The Korean assessment followed a recent study by the Wall Street Journal which chose the best sports city in the United States for 2015.

The paper analyzed the 21 cities that have at least three teams from the NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB and ranked them based on their teams’ winning percentage.

The result showed St. Louis had the best winning percentage to entertain fans. The city has the Cardinals in the Major League Baseball, where Korean pitcher Oh Seung-hwan recently signed. The Cardinals had 100 wins and 62 losses last year, marking the best winning percentage in the MLB.

In the NFL, the Rams went 7-8, while ice hockey team the Blues collected 52 wins, eight draws and 25 losses. The combined winning percentage of these three teams in St. Louis reached .622.

Applying the same criteria, the JoongAng Ilbo analyzed 14 cities in Korea that have at least two professional teams.

Excluding Korea Expressway Corp.’s women’s volleyball team, which moved from Seongnam, Gyeonggi to Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang last April, the winning percentage of 61 teams in seven professional leagues were analyzed.

The record of baseball and football teams was based on the 2015 season, while basketball and volleyball team figures were for the 2014/15 season. For football, numbers from the second division K-League Challenge were also counted.

The result showed that Ulsan is the best sports city in Korea. The industrial city has Korean Basketball League (KBL) champion Mobis Phoebus and Ulsan Hyundai FC which finished seventh in the K-League Classic. The two teams had a combined winning percentage of .616.

Ulsan Hyundai was placed in the lower group B under the K-League Classic’s split system after the team struggled in the beginning of the season, but it has collected wins from the teams in lower Group B in the end.

Daegu, home of the eight-time Korea Baseball Organization champions Samsung Lions and K-League second division club Daegu FC, was second with a .600 winning percentage. Changwon, where KBO club NC Dinos, second division football club Gyeongnam FC and KBL team LG Sakers are located, was third at .569 winning percentage.

The Lions and the Dinos finished first and second in the 2015 KBO League respectively.

Busan, Korea’s second largest city, was 13th among 14 cities with .420 winning percentage. The southern port city saw Lotte Giants in the KBO, Busan I’ Park FC in the K-League Classic and KT Sonicboom in the KBL having poor performances in their leagues last season. I’Park FC was even relegated to the second division.

Jeonju was the last among 14 cities despite having the K-League Classic champion Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. As KCC Egis only went 12-42 in the 2014/15 KBL season, the North Jeolla city only marked a .395 winning percentage.

Among cities that have populations under 1 million, Ansan had the best winning percentage in 2015 at .513. The Gyeonggi city, which has a population of 700,000, was fourth among the cities as OK Savings Bank Rush & Cash in men’s volleyball and Ansan Police Agency in K-League Challenge combined records of 34 wins, 15 draws and 27 losses.

“Ansan has a lot of attention for pro sports compared to other cities,” said Chung Hee-yoon, an advisor to the Korea Professional Sports Association.

“The regional governments welcome pro sports teams to upgrade their public image and the local economy and that effect gets bigger when pro sports produce good results.”

OK Savings Bank was the 2014/15 season V-League champion after stopping Daejeon Samsung Bluefangs’ bid to become the eighth straight champions in men’s volleyball.

The victory last year delivered a little relief to Ansan citizens after the Sewol ferry sinking accident. To support and communicate with Ansan citizens, OK Savings Bank, which was founded in 2013, printed “We Ansan” on their uniforms.

“We turned around the city’s atmosphere with the ‘We Ansan’ message,” said OK Savings Bank coach Kim Se-jin. “What’s important is that the team has sincerity for its hometown.”

Suwon, a Gyeonggi city with a population of 1.17 million, is home to five professional sports clubs, which is more than metropolitan cities such as Daejeon, Busan, Daegu, and Ulsan.

Because the KBO rookie team KT Wiz finished worst in the league table with 52 wins, one draw and 91 losses, Suwon’s winning percentage was only .480, 7th among 14 cities. But counting only the number of wins, Suwon was third at 131 wins after Seoul (313 wins with nine teams) and Incheon (164 wins with six teams).

BY KIM WON [joo.kyungdon@joongang.co.kr]

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