Aubergine

Top 10 Korean sports stories of 2015

December 18, 2015

By Brian Han

(Yonhap)

S. Korean soccer had a phenomenal year under German coach Uli Stielike, including winning the East Asian Cup in August. (Yonhap)

1. South Korea’s national soccer team put together an unforgettable year under the tutelage of Coach Uli Stielike who said he was “satisfied” with the record they put together. Son Heung-min, also known as Sonaldo led the team in goals scored.

After its only 2015 loss back in January, South Korea went on to outscore its opponents 34-2 in its next 13 matches.

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Pittsburgh Pirates' Kang Jung-ho hits a home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Friday, July 17, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Pittsburgh Pirates’ Kang Jung-ho hits a home run during the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Friday, July 17, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

2. Pittsburgh Pirates’ infielder Kang Jung-ho quashed all doubt in his Major League Baseball (MLB) rookie season, proving KBO position players can hang in the majors. He came in third for the National League Rookie of the Year award.

To be fair, he probably would have ranked higher if Chicago Cubs’ outfielder Chris Coghlan hadn’t slid into his knee to end his season.

The 28-year-old finished the season batting .287 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs.

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Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, gives a high-five to an enthusiastic young fan, four-year old Mackenzie Wilson after walking off the 11th hole during the pro-am at the Manulife LPGA Classic golf tournament in Cambridge, Ontario, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press via AP)

Lydia Ko, of New Zealand, gives a high-five to an enthusiastic young fan, four-year old Mackenzie Wilson after walking off the 11th hole during the pro-am at the Manulife LPGA Classic golf tournament in Cambridge, Ontario, Wednesday, June 3, 2015. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press via AP)

3. Lydia Ko became world No. 1 at the age of 17 breaking Tiger Woods’ record by four years. The Korean New Zealander also won her first major, topped the money list at $2.8 million, took home Player of the Year and locked up five LPGA Tour victories.

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4. Sticking to women’s golf, don’t forget about world No. 2 Inbee Park.

The 27-year-old completed a career grand slam after a victory at the 2015 Women’s British Open. She finished 2015 as the highest ranked South Korean player in the world at No. 2 and just like her 18-year-old rival, snagged five LPGA Tour victories.

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South Korea's Lee Dae-ho (L) and Jeong Keun-woo hold up the trophy as they celebrate after defeating the United States in the final of WBSC Premier 12 baseball tournament at Tokyo Dome in the Japanese capital on Nov. 21, 2015. South Korea won the match 8-0 to become the inaugural champion of the tournament. (Yonhap)

South Korea’s Lee Dae-ho (L) and Jeong Keun-woo hold up the trophy as they celebrate after defeating the United States in the final of WBSC Premier 12 baseball tournament at Tokyo Dome in the Japanese capital on Nov. 21, 2015. South Korea won the match 8-0 to become the inaugural champion of the tournament. (Yonhap)

5. Moving on from golf (at least for a little while), South Korea’s national baseball team battled their way to the Premier 12 final, a journey which featured baseball teams from all over the world. Once there, they defeated the U.S. 8-0 to become the tournament’s first ever champion.

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6. The UFC held their first event ever in South Korea toward the end of November.

Korean fighters made a strong showing in Seoul for a UFC Fight Night event in which they won five of eight possible matches.

Hometown hero Kim Dong-hyun, otherwise known as the “Stun Gun,” fought in front of a South Korean crowd for the first time in over a decade for the title match. He left the ring with a victory.

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7. An Byeong-hun said he took up golf because he’s not athletic enough for ping pong. Sounds random, but both of his parents were medalists for table tennis at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

It turns out that he probably made the right choice after taking home the European PGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year honors. He won a major championship, the BMW PGA Championship, in his first full year. He could very well be South Korea’s next star on the PGA Tour.

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8. The Korean Baseball Organization’s (KBO) home run juggernaut Park Byung-ho will make his way to baseball’s biggest stage after signing a $12.85 million contract with MLB’s the Minnesota Twins.

The 29-year-old put together back-to-back 50+ home run seasons with the Nexen Heroes.

ESPN thinks that he has a good chance of being 2016′s Rookie of the Year.

 

9. The LPGA is just dripping with incoming South Korean talent and Kim Sei Young represents that phenomenon the best.

The 22-year-old shut the door on the LPGA Tour’s Rookie of the Year race before the season even ended. She racked up three victories in a year that featured some of the brightest newcomers on tour.

On top of that, she squared off against world No. 2 Inbee Park at the Lotte Championship in April where she holed a 154-yard iron shot for an eagle to close out the tournament. There’s honestly no better way to let the rest of the tour know that she’s here to stay.

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10. Olympic gold medalist Park Tae-hwan lost a lot of face in 2015 after a scandal broke out regarding his use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs).

Former Olympic swimming champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea holds back his tears during a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 27, 2015. Former Olympic swimming champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea offered a public apology Friday, four days after receiving an 18-month ban for failing a doping test. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

Former Olympic swimming champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea holds back his tears during a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 27, 2015. Former Olympic swimming champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea offered a public apology Friday, four days after receiving an 18-month ban for failing a doping test. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

He apologized, he teared up, he appealed his 18-month ban from the International Swimming Federation (FINA), but so far things aren’t looking so great for the 26-year-old.

Although he got keep his Olympic medals, he had his six 2014 Asian Games medals stripped.

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Honorable mention:

He may not be Korean, but he’s making history in the KBO.

For major leaguer Eric Thames never quite got the chance to shine in the MLB, but since arriving in South Korea two years ago, he established himself as one of the best players, if not the best, in the KBO.

NC Dinos first baseman Eric Thames (Facebook)

NC Dinos first baseman Eric Thames (Facebook)

4 Comments

  1. Roger Smith

    December 19, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    Lydia Ko is a Kiwi. You can hardly claim her as your own in this list. She may have been born in Korea but she is a proud ambassador for New Zealand.
    Sth Korea has many fine golfers – Park Inbee, In Gee Chun to name but two. I would have thought Inbee would be the person on you list. Great 2015 for her with all the major wins. Stop trying to claim Lydia

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