Soon, the Pyeongchang Olympics will be upon us, then the kendo world championships and later in the same year, the soccer world cup. In the middle of all of these, it is good to remember that the most popular sport in Korea is baseball. The entire country follows baseball seasons, offering a chance to all the uprooted locals who moved to Seoul for university and work, to reconnect with their youth by cheering for their hometown team.
The country is not that big and that's why there are only 10 teams on the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) roster. They are all connected to cities and large companies who paid for their creation with the exception of Nexen Heroes. So the teams are as follow: Doosan Bears, LG Twins and Nexen Heroes are from Seoul, Lotte Giants are from Busan, KIA Tigers from Gwangju, Hanwha Eagles are from Daejeon, Samsung Lions from Daegu, SK Wyverns are from Incheon, the NC Dinos from Changwon and the KT Wiz are from Suwon.
There is a strong bonding effect between supporters depending on their city of origin or the company they work for. It is usual to do friendly bets between colleagues on baseball statistics and some teams even attend games religiously to support their brand and create a strong relationship that often, not always, benefit their teamwork.
Attending a baseball game at the stadium is a chance for a lot of people to let loose. Between the cheerleaders dancing on podiums on both sides, and the famous "Kiss Cam" that offers sweet, often awkward, sometimes disturbing moments, there are plenty of opportunities to laugh and enjoy the game, even when not much happens on the field.
Here is a list of the stadiums around the country, in the major cities as you can imagine. In Seoul, the Jamsil stadium is the most popular but it is also possible to watch games at the Mokdong stadium and the Gocheok Sky Dome. Nearby is the Munhak stadium in Incheon and when going South, you can find others stadiums in Suwon and in Daejeon. Gwangju has two stadiums, the Kia Champions Field and the Mudeung Stadium, while Busan, the second biggest city in the country, only has one, the Sajik baseball stadium. Next, two stadiums are set in Daegu, the Samsung Lions Park and the Daegu baseball stadium, and each of the following cities have a single location: Ulsan, Pohang, Gunsan, Masan and Cheongju.
Food and Drinks
There is a wealth of on site food and drinks to buy on site but be warned, wealth does not mean health in this case: fried chicken, hamburgers and beers are on the menu. For any other options, you'll have to bring your own. However, if these items are your thing then you'll be very happy as the combination of fried chicken, beer, cheerleaders, pop tunes and waves of cheers are a match made in baseball heaven.
Cheering and Dancing
The atmosphere in the stadiums is electric and the fans are committed. Once on site and after the snarky grin washes off your face, you will be chasing after the plastic bags and inflatable sticks that harbor the colors of the team you support just to be able to blend into the crowd. Then, you will learn the two most basic screams: "Ya!" as a complaint when a player makes a foul, and "Wae!" meaning What? as a reply to the opposite team screaming for the foul, creating a back and forth of Ya and Wae until either side runs out of fried chicken. Finally, if you are lucky and the team you support scores a home run, you will get to experience the euphoria of a few thousand people at once, burning the screams of joy onto your memory bank.
Going to any stadium in any country is a great experience and the general joie de vivre of the Korean stadium goers is infectious and truly memorable.
Tickets and Getting There
Getting tickets for popular games can be quite competitive as they sell out fast. If you’re planning on going, we recommend buying tickets early for the best games and seats. There are several online websites where you can buy tickets or if you’re near a stadium and want to try your luck, you can sometimes catch last minute tickets at the box office.
If you need help with baseball tickets or planning a weekend out of it, Wonderful can help. We’re a virtual personal assistant service dedicated to helping foreigners in Korea. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to get more insights into the best events in Korea. www.gowonderfully.com