Landers join long list of creative Incheon team names
The news that the SK Wyverns would be rebranded as the SSG Landers caused a fair amount of skepticism both in and outside of Korea. But whether Landers works for you or not, one thing is undoubtedly true — it very effectively continues the longstanding Incheon tradition of creative team names.
New fans of Korean sports are often taken aback by the naming conventions common here.
Broadly speaking, major sports teams in Korea contain some combination of three elements: The name of the company that owns the club, a nickname and the name of the city the team plays in. Baseball teams all follow the format "company name, nickname," football teams are almost all named after the city followed by "FC" or "United" and volleyball teams seem to pick and choose any combination of the three.
For people unfamiliar with Korea, these names can be pretty confusing. Nothing but experience is going to help new fans understand that the Suwon Samsung Bluewings, Suwon FC, Suwon Kepco Vixtorm, Suwon Hyundai Engineering & Construction Hillstate and the KT Wiz are all based in the city and are, respectively, two football teams, a men's volleyball team, a women's volleyball and a baseball club.
These weird and wonderful names are part of what make following Korean sports exciting to watch and the cheering culture so fun to be a part of. And with the addition of the SSG Landers to its long history of creatively-named clubs, Incheon is the best place to start a search for the most exciting team names in Korea.
KBO team names are probably the most mainstream among all Korean sports, not necessarily because they're unremarkable, but because it's the most popular sport in Korea and the names are the most normalized.
Some teams, like the Kia Tigers, the LG Twins and the Lotte Giants, have taken inspiration from the major league with a company name added to the front. The same format is followed by all other KBO teams, although the nicknames do get a bit more outlandish, from the fan-favorite NC Dinos to the more unusual KT Wiz and its wizard mascot.
For the last two decades, Incheon has been home to the SK Wyverns. Although over the years the Wyverns became a much-loved team name, it's not exactly a well-known English word.
Merriam Webster describes a wyvern as a "mythical animal usually represented as a two-legged winged creature resembling a dragon," a pretty cool mascot for a sports team but not a word many fans will have been familiar with before the team chose the nickname. Twenty years of solid baseball normalized the name and now naming a team after a quite obscure mythical creature seems to make perfect sense.
Before SK and the Wyverns moved into Incheon, the city was home to a 30-year franchise that included the Sammi Superstars, the Chungbo Pintos, the Taepyungyang Dolphins and the Hyundai Unicorns. Every single one of these team names was arguably the most creative of its time in the KBO.
The Superstars, one of the KBOs founding teams, was in the league at a time when the sole Seoul club was named after a blue dragon, but the underpants-and-cape-clad man standing on the Sammi emblem still gave it the edge.
A "pinto" is, according to Merriam Webster, "a horse or pony of various breeding that is marked with patches of white and another color." Like wyvern, this isn't exactly a well-known word but the team leaned into it with a braying donkey emblem.
Things went a bit more mainstream for the Dolphins and the Unicorns, but in a league filled with Giants and Twins, an aquatic mammal and a mythical creature still stand out.
Now SK have sold the Wyverns to Shinsegae Group and the team has been renamed the SSG Landers, a reference to the group's e-commerce arm SSG.com and the city of Incheon, home to Korea's biggest airport and a major port, both of which are used for landing.
Although Shinsegae referenced Incheon International Airport and Incheon Port when it unveiled the name, the team's new logo has gone in another direction. The team's logo depicts the name "SSG Landers" picked out in red, apparently being abducted by a large flying saucer hovering above the name. While it might take some time to get used to, the Landers are definitely embracing the creative side of Incheon team names.
Baseball isn't the only sport where Incheon team names stand out.
Incheon is home to two volleyball clubs, the Incheon Korean Air Jumbos men's volleyball team and the more-creatively named Incheon Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders in the women's V League.
Both team names mention the city, followed by the owning company — Korean Air and Heungkuk Life Insurance — and then a nickname.
In men's volleyball the name choice is clear — the club is owned by Korean Air and is based in Incheon, home to a major airport. Naming the team the Jumbos, in honor of the jumbo jet, is a nod to both of these things, and clearly follows some of the same logic as the SSG Landers.
Believe it or not, there is also some logic behind the Pink Spiders. The team is named after a spider in an apparent reference to the speed and dexterity that a good volleyball player needs to have in their hand. Like a spider, they need to be able to move quickly, spread out their legs — or in this case fingers — and grab the ball. The pink, presumably, is just because it's a nice color.
In basketball, Incheon is also home to a men's and women's team, the Incheon Electroland Elephants and the Incheon Shinhan Bank S-Birds.
The Electroland Elephants is a simple name, taking the brand Electroland and the nickname Elephants, that causes no end of confusion for casual sports fans.
Written as "Electroland Elephants," the team's name is clear. Unfortunately, Electroland is very often shortened to ET Land, leaving the team's name written as the "ET Land Elephants," a name that seems to suggest that the Incheon club is named after an ET brand with the nickname "Land Elephants."
Despite the obvious confusion that Land Elephants causes, the team name is fairly straight forward. The Shinhan Bank S-Birds is also a simple idea — not content with naming the team after the bank, Shinhan added an extra S in front of the team's Birds nickname to make it extra clear who the club represents.
Football and handball
The women's Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels WFC takes a far more exciting approach than the men's Incheon United FC when it comes to football.
Named after the red-hot furnace at a Hyundai Steel plant, the Red Angels name indicates the passion and strength of a fire hot enough to melt iron and the tranquility of angels, creating what ought to be a both loveable and deadly team.
Incheon United, owned by the city itself, has taken a less creative approach. The city's penchant for less-exciting team names follows through into handball, with the Incheon City Corporation men's team and Incheon City Hall women's club.
Despite the city's less exciting approach to the men's football and handball names, it's clear that Incheon loves an outlandish sports team. The SSG Landers may have had a bumpy landing when the team announced the name, but the added UFO branding shows the owner is willing to have some fun with it.
Give it a few months and Landers will feel just as normal as Pintos, Pink Spiders or Land Elephants.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]