Last year during our trip to South Korea, we were invited to a baseball game at Jamsil Stadium! Baseball was first introduced to Korea in 1905 by an American missionary, and in 1982 a professional baseball league was created in South Korea and it was the first time a professional sport was widely popular amongst the Korean public. Since then South Korea hosted and won the Asian Baseball Championships in 1963 and 1971 and beat the U.S and Japan to win the 3rd Intercontinental Cup in 1977 after only joining the professional world league in 1954. Baseball became MASSIVE in South Korea with the national team managing to beat the world’s no.1 amateur team Cuba and world’s no.1 professional team U.S to the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Even Fidel Castro wrote a newspaper article to rave about the quality and skill of the South Korean Team (Source: KSport:A New Breed in Rising Champions). With South Korea being such a proud country, it’s no wonder that the Baseball league currently holds the record for the highest attendance in a single season; “7 million people came out to one or more games in 2011” (Source: K-Sports: A New Breed in Rising Champions).
Baseball in South Korea is like football to us UK Folk. Baseball teams have their own respective city and province so whilst we were staying in Seoul, we went along to support the home team the Doosan Bears against Daejeon’s Hanhwa Eagles. Doosan Bears won the very first Korean Series back in 1982 when the Korean Baseball league was first created and it looked like a promising night! Because baseball is not very prominent in the UK, we’ve never seen a match and the only knowledge we had was that it was kind of looked like rounders…
We went to the match with some hardcore baseball fans so we sat in the serious section and had a perfect view of the field. We were handed Doosan balloon cheering sticks, fried chicken, a lot beer, the knowledge that there were 9 innings and embarked on our first Korean Baseball game. The baseball fans were VERY enthusiastic – there were loud fan chants, giant flag waving and a lot of inflatable sticks. Even though the Hanhwa Eagles were the away team with fans taking up only a small section of the stadium, they were just as loud as the home team, and the atmosphere in the stadium was electric!
They say that South Korean baseball is a unforgettable experience because of the fans. Each team’s fan base have their own little unique traditions and customs. As the players entered the field, they all got a cheesy intro video on the big screen and each player had their own little theme tune which fans knew by heart and screamed along to. We heard a lot of tunes that night including Gangnam Style for a player whose surname was Oh, as well as a few American tunes. The Doosan Bear fans were all very enthusiastic and the unity within the crowd was amazing, everyone in white, everyone waving balloon sticks and some people at the back waving MASSIVE flags. We’ve read that Busan baseball fans are famous in the country as they have a crazy tradition of bringing in orange plastic bags and newspapers shaped like dustbins to cheer for their team, it’s such a respected ritual that people sell outdated newspapers outside stadiums for those wanting to take part and many actually fashion the orange plastic bags into fabulous fashions to don during the game. Trash bags (which are orange) are even handed out by stadium officials before hand for fans to cheer with and then re-used at the end of the game to throw out rubbish (so efficient!), so for any UK folk going to see Busan play, why not bring a few Sainsburys bags!
During half time there were also lots of games on the big screen, for example, drinking games between fans from either side as well as a kiss cam that everyone seemed eager to participate in. And cheerleaders of course!
If you’ve played rounders then you should be able to grasp the basics of baseball game play, but it was a lot more calculated and technical (rather then swing at ball, throw down bat and run as far as you can). In all honesty, there were a few boring moments, but that’s mainly because we weren’t familiar with the players and how the scoring worked. And before you think that baseball games are only for all men, statistics show that the 20s age group actually accounts for 50.4% of the ticket sales, with females accounting for 40.7% of the overall sales! Since then, many stadiums have added in little touches for the growing female fan base with powder rooms and there is even a Lady Day where Team LG Twins would pick the most fashionable female fan and award her a prize!
We did have lots of fun getting into the spirit with other fans, waving sticks and consuming a lot of beer. We also witnessed an epic home run that made the whole stadium scream and roar. Everyone was very serious about the game, we even had some super hardcore fans sat in front of us keeping track of another baseball match on a portable TV simultaneously. We also spotted the legendary snack ahjummas who threw snacks at peckish fans.
There was a moment when the game got very intense and the fans calmed down as everyone watched in suspense. The beginning of the game was slow points wise but towards the end the Doosan Bears fired up and started scoring all the points and before we knew it, the game ended with a win for the Doosan Bears!
We don’t think that Korean baseball is a very touristy thing to do, although we did spot a family of tourists also attending the game. But in general nothing is in English and somewhat confusing, so we are very grateful to our friends who invited us along to this Korean experience! Outdoor sports like baseball are played from Spring to Autumn in South Korea, so if you do get a chance why not chill out and watch a game. There is a MASSIVE social aspect to it, everyone in the audience had beer and fried chicken and we had a fabulous time with our friends which continued way into the early morning! One thing we would suggest is to go sit on the fan side of the team you choose to support, this is where all the fan chanting and dancing happens, it looked super fun (and exhausting!). And of course, bring Sainsburys carrier bags if you’re going to see Busan!