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

Overall, sports in South Korea is a multi-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 in 2019, 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 thousands of fans to stadiums around the country despite the outbreak of COVID-19, 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 more than five times the amount from football ticket sales in 2019. 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. To give an idea of the difference between the older and newer pro leagues, the wages of the highest paid baseball player was more than the salary cap of a KBL team. What is encouraging is that 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. In 2020, the KBL and V-League canceled their seasons midway due to 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. With the prolonged pandemic acting as a deterrent for match-going fans entering stadiums, clubs will have to devise new ways to engage with their supporters and attract interest regardless of the sport.

Interesting statistics

In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 30 most important statistics relating to "Professional men's sports in South Korea".


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