It’s no secret: Koreans are absolutely amazing archers.
Since 1988 when they introduced the women’s archery event in Seoul, they’ve won every single medal, every single time.
They outrank the 2nd place gold medal-holding team in Olympic archery by ten medals.
It adds up; they’re fantastic at archery, but why is that?
Let’s take a look.
- 1 4 Main Reasons Koreans Dominate Archery
- 2 History of Koreans and Archery
- 3 Recent Victories
- 4 Can You Bet on Korea for the 2020 Summer Games?
- 5 Is It Likely That South Korea Will Dominate the Next Olympics?
- 6 Dedication Turns a Passion Into a Full-Time Job
4 Main Reasons Koreans Dominate Archery
1. Age-Old Tradition
You can date Korean use with bows and arrows as far back as 500 B.C., where they rode in on horseback and propelled arrows towards their enemies.
Their armies were some of the fiercest warriors around, primarily because they didn’t need heavy, clunky armor; they were agile, deadly from a distance, and absolutely fear-inducing with a bow in their hands.
Their military history is rich, and so they kept the tradition of learning archery to modern days. It’s not only a
2. Taught in Primary Schools
Yes, primary school—children begin to learn proper archery form, and while it might be quite some time before they launch an arrow, they practice with rubber bands and learn how to properly set up a shot.
In America, we focus on getting the arrow to land on the target and hit our mark. In South Korea, they are obsessed with proper form, and simply allow the rest to just happen as a result of their good form.
3. Hardcore Training
It’s insane how much South Korea’s archery team practices.
They’ll train for upwards of ten hours a day, and displace over 2,500 arrows in a single week.
Compare that to some of us in the United States who do it for sport or leisure, and maybe displace 100 arrows on a Saturday morning (if we’re lucky).
They go hardcore and don’t stop for anything, and it’s one reason why it’s believed that South Korea will remain on top in Olympic archery for the forseeable future.
4. They Make it a Cultural Phenomenon
It’s not all rigorous training, medals and being amazing (well, that’s the result of it at least); South Korea holds a twice-yearly festival where K-Pop stars and celebrities go toe-to-toe in an archery competition.
They make a spectacle out of it, and have a lot of fun, celebrating one of their nation’s pastimes in a similar fashion to how we host post-victory Stanley Cup, Superbowl and World Series parades.
It’s hard work, but there’s fun to be had, too. South Koreans never forget that, and it keeps their head in the game at all times.
History of Koreans and Archery
It’s one of the longest histories of archery, but one with the least amount of variance. Once they found out what worked, they stuck to it.
Not much has changed in the way of traditional Korean archery.
From its inception, it was used in warfare and eventually in competition, and has a staple in modern day Korean culture. But how exactly did it start?
Well, it’s difficult to track over 5,000 years of history, but we can track its most influential inclusion in Korean culture as late as the early 15th century.
During the reign of King Kojong, who was quoted in saying “Old people said archery is a way of assessing virtue,” he received a visitor—Prince Heinrich from Germany.
Heinrich was so impressed with the display of Korean archery that had been in their culture for so long, but it was ironically during a point where Korea saw a decline in archery with the rise of firearms.
Upon admiration from Heinrich, Kojong saw archery as a great center of pride for the Korean people, and began making it a staple in their culture (more so than it already was).
During the late 16th century, Toyotomi Hideyoshi came from Japan and attempted to conquer all of Korea and China. It was Korea who helped to repel the invaders with the user of archery.
From then up until modern times, KTA archers remain the most skillful in the world, and come directly from Korea.
A KTA archer is one who specifically aims for 145 meter targets (475.6 ft), which is more than double the standard for Olympic archery target distances.
Rio, 2016, Women’s Archery
Chang Hye-jin, Choi Mi-sun, and Ki Bo-bae swept the competition in Rio de Janeiro with a score that just barely cut above Russia.
They landed a 1998, whereas their competition landed 1938. It was a close victory, and we saw some of the highest archery scores in Olympic history at this event.
In 2016 at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Kim Woo-jin set a world record for the highest Olympic archery score ever, getting a 700/720 max score and setting the bar even higher for competitors.
That was for a 72 arrow round, but for the 18 arrow match, Park Kyung-mo of South Korea set another record of a 173/180 maximum score.
China, 2008, Men’s Archery
Im Dong-Hyun, Lee Chang-Hwan, and Park Kyung-Mo had an extremely close finish.
The top six teams all placed between 2015 and 1986 points, with South Korea taking the gold, and a close 1997 second by the Ukraine.
As far as Olympic archery events go, spectators had sweaty palms the entire time, watching the extremely close race to the top.
During this year, South Korea also took the gold medal in women’s archery, though the event was partially overshadowed by the close race between the Ukraine and South Korea.
Since the women’s team is seen as invincible since winning every gold medal since their induction in the Olympics, the events are sometimes expected to be won. There’s arguably more pressure on their team.
2004, Athens, Men’s Archery
Lee Sung-jin, Park Sung-hyn, and Yun Mi-jin took the gold from an extremely close race.
Where they received 2030 points, there was a 1985 point three-way tie between second and fourth place.
Italy, the Ukraine and Chinese Taipei each landed nearly identical scores in each round, with South Korea exceeding them at every single turn.
In the men’s individuals, South Korea did not even break the top three.
In fact, Marco Galiazzo from Italy won gold, Hiroshi Yamamoto from Japan won the silver, and Tim Cuddhly from Australia won bronze.
It was very unexpected considering how the rest of the events went, and South Korea’s clear dominance in the men’s team games.
They still won gold in the women’s team, and the women’s individual gold went to Park Sung-Hyun.
Can You Bet on Korea for the 2020 Summer Games?
In 2016, during the Rio games, it was the first time that (in America) you were allowed to bet on Olympic games in a traditional booking institution.
It was legal, especially in Las Vegas, but uncertainty hangs around like a haze since we haven’t been able to bet on the Olympics for very long.
There is some speculation that the right to betting will be revoked.
However, there are plenty of websites that allow for online gambling that cite United States law and specify under what circumstances they are allowed to offer online gambling.
It’s not always the easiest thing to do, but you can usually bet small amounts of money (under five figures) on different Olympic events.
That applies for the South Korean archery teams in the 2020 Olympics.
Is It Likely That South Korea Will Dominate the Next Olympics?
Strictly based off of history, yes it’s entirely possible.
With the women’s archery team never having lost the gold since they were first introduced, and South Korea holding a total of ten gold medals over the second place nation, we don’t anticipate them falling from grace anytime soon.
But that’s because of their dedication.
When some people get to the top, it’s a quick and slippery slope back down. South Koreans don’t change their training regimen: they dedicate more time and attention to archery than anyone else, and they still have their fun with it like we talked about earlier.
They make it a focus of their culture, and that keeps their spirits and skills alive and well. If you’re looking to root for a team in the next archery portion of the Olympics, it’s a safe bet to assume that South Korea will reign victorious yet again.
Dedication Turns a Passion Into a Full-Time Job
In South Korea, you can turn archery into a full-time job that pays the bills, and then some.
It’s a lifestyle that’s celebrated far more than how we celebrate some sports here in the United States, and it’s wonderful how ingrained it is into South Korea’s society.
Watch the next Olympics, and when it comes to archery, just watch how they absolutely destroy every other team out there. It’s a spectacle to watch, and they make it look so easy.