Kim Chong, vice minister of culture, sports and tourism
By Jung Min-ho
The government will have key pro sports organizations create or strengthen websites in English next year, while pushing for an online portal for all pro sports.
"English websites for all major sports will be created next year," Kim Chong, vice minister of culture, sports and tourism, said in a recent interview.
His commitment means foreign fans will have an easier time tracking pro baseball when the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) creates an English website.
Despite its huge popularity and a significant presence of foreign players, the KBO doesn't have an English website.
"There is definitely a need for an English service. The international interest in Korean professional sports is growing and teams are acquiring more high-profile athletes from other countries," Kim said.
With an increasing number of Korean athletes such as Major League Baseball (MLB) players Choo Shin-soo, Ryu Hyun-jin and Bundesliga standout Son Heung-min finding success overseas, there also seems to be increasing international interest in Korean sports competitions.
However, the governing bodies for the national professional leagues, including the KBO, Korean Basketball League (KBL), Korea Football Association (KFA) and Korean Volleyball Federation (KOVO) have failed miserably to take advantage of that growth.
Visitors to the English websites of the KFA would find the quality very sloppy. The KBO doesn't even have an English website. International fans of Korean baseball have instead relied on websites like MyKBO.net, created by U.S.-based super fan Dan Kurtz.
Kim talked about the possibility of a "united sports website," an all-in-one destination for foreign fans who could receive news and information on different sports.
"Since there is a demand, I'm sure some business people will be interested in doing the job in cooperation with us," Kim said.
Critics say the KBO and other leagues are missing enormous opportunities offered by foreigners, both here and outside of Korea, such as a financial one in terms of ticket sales, television revenue and merchandizing and to sell Korean talent to major league clubs.
The KFA and KBL offer an English language service, but the English information is very limited unlike the Korean version. What fans can see on their websites in English is merely the commissioner's message, rules of the leagues and old news from summer.
The KOVO has none, not to mention other less popular sports such as skating, judo and tennis.
With over 1 million expatriates living here and the increasing number of Korean players making lavish deals with foreign leagues, Kim's pledge is expected to expand the market for Korean sports further beyond its border.