Korea’s Dominance of Olympic Archery

Korea’s rein over archery has been apparent for many years. In 1984, Seo Hyang-Soon became the first Korean archer to win an Olympic gold in the ever-growing sport. Since then, Korea’s hold over the archery world has grown larger, with the country currently boasting 16 medals in half as many Olympic games. But how did Korea become such a formidable opponent in this ancient sport, that over here we tend to think of as historically British?

The history of Korean archery
Archery has been established in Korean since prehistoric times. Used in battle for centuries, the bow and arrow were a vital part of the Korean defence strategy throughout the 1800’s. Unable to keep up with modern firearms, Korea’s use of archery as a defence dropped in the 1900’s. However, with the reinstatement of archery to the Olympic games in 1972 (after its removal in 1920) Korea began training archers in Olympic-style archery and has now been dominating the competition since 1984.
Korea’s focus on archery
Korean children are introduced to archery at a young age and enjoy coaching in the sport throughout primary school. Throughout middle school, high school and university, the lower level archers fade away (but often continue recreational pursuit of the sport in the many ranges across the country) until the best young adults are hired for company teams run by large organisations and businesses.
Archery is so important in Korea that only 30 % of the sports funding is from the Korean Archery Association (KAA) with the rest coming from the countries 33 company teams who provide a wage, pension and career to the archers they hire to compete on behalf of their company. This level of investment ensures that Korea currently has 147 elite archers compared to the extremely small numbers found elsewhere.
To illustrate the level of devotion to the task at hand Korea is famous (at least in archery circles) for having built an exact replica of the Beijing 2008 Olympic archery venue, providing their archers with the opportunity to practice in “the venue” over a year in advance. Huge enthusiastic crowds voluntarily turned up for practice sessions to mimic the busy, pressured environment on the day. This dedication to the sport has clearly paid off, with Korea still proving to be the country to beat in international competitions.
Korea at the Olympics
Korea has held a number of Olympic archery titles for consecutive games. Since the introduction of the team archery event in 1988, the Korean women’s team has retained their team gold for all seven Olympic games. Meanwhile, the men’s team follows closely behind having held theirs for four out of the seven games.
Korea also has a tight hold of the gold in the women’s singles event; in all but the Beijing 2008 Olympic games, Korea has held the women’s gold since 1980, when the Soviet Union’s Keto Losaberidze won in Moscow. In fact, at the London 2012 Olympics, Korea medalled in every event and only missed out on gold in the men’s team competition when they won bronze.
Maybe we should think about forming company teams to try a novel method of giving British archery a bit of a boost? A great starting point (we think!) would probably be to book a 2020 archery corporate event and see how your company team gets on….