Professional men's sports in South Korea - statistics & facts

Overall, sports in South Korea is a 78 trillion South Korean won industry. Part of the sports service industry is professional sports, which managed to record over 118 billion South Korean won in ticket sales, even with its relatively young history. Men’s baseball and football went pro in the early 1980s, basketball in the mid-1990s, and the professional volleyball V-League was established as late as 2005. Nevertheless, spectator sports in South Korea continues to draw in millions of fans to stadiums around the country, with baseball and football leading the charge.

What are the most popular spectator sports in South Korea?

The Korea Baseball Organization league is the most popular pro sport enjoyed in South Korea by far. It dwarfs other leagues with high ticket revenue; it earned almost eight times the amount from football ticket sales in 2018. What is worth noting is that the league had a higher share of female fans compared to the average gender ratio of spectators in South Korea, which indicates its wide appeal. The fact that the fanbase is relatively young bodes well for the years to come.

The second major sport in South Korea is football; almost one in every two teenagers had played the sport, although this fondness has not fully translated into spectatorship for the domestic K League 1. However, the continuous increase in average order value per spectator gives cause for hope going forward. What does need working on is the disparity of spectatorship between K League 1 teams.

Basketball and volleyball started a decade or two after the aforementioned sports, which needs consideration when making comparisons. In 2019, the wages of the highest paid baseball player was equal to the salary cap of one KBL team. The V-League is growing at a steady pace, with the men’s average wages already higher than that of their KBL counterparts.

The future of professional sports in South Korea

What drove spectators to visit stadiums was related to personal connections that fans made with the sport and its players. The KBL and V-League canceled their seasons midway with the outbreak of COVID-19, while baseball and football started their respective seasons initially without spectators. With many leagues cancelled or postponed around the world, various foreign broadcasting companies secured broadcasting rights for the KBO or K League 1. This is an opportunity for the two leagues to increase their fanbase on a global scale.

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Professional men's sports in South Korea

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