In 1988 hockey in Korea was stealing the headlines and causing a buzz as the women’s national team won silver at the Seoul Olympics, losing 2-0 in the final to an Australian team that was at the very height of its golden era.
The medal, won in front of a passionate home crowd sparked an enormous interest in the game and for a while everyone wanted to join a club and play hockey.
Unfortunately, the Korean Hockey Association at that time didn’t recognise the importance of grassroots hockey in sustaining interest in the game and over time the huge interest died down and eventually faded away.
Now, nearly 30 years on, Korea is struggling to find hockey players for its men’s and women’s senior teams. There is a pool of around 300 players and yet, both the men’s and women’s teams remain in the top 12 ranked teams in the world. The men are currently 12th and the women ninth – which is testimony to the tremendous work done by a small number of coaches and players.
Both teams regularly qualify for major events, with the women’s side finishing 11th at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and both teams qualifying for the Hockey World League Semi-Finals later this year.
With global interest in hockey growing in line with FIH's 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy, the Korea Hockey Association (KHA) is throwing its weight and support behind an initiative to increase the profile and participation rates in hockey in the Asian country.
It is a pivotal moment in Korea’s hockey history, and members of the KHA hope that the programme will help to uncover young talent and spark enthusiasm for hockey among the Korean youth.
In December 2016, the first two-day event was held at Soonchunhyang University in Asan, where more than 300 under-12 players and their families gathered for two days of hockey.
More than 50 coaches and teachers led the programme, which included various hockey activities, small-sided games, coaching activities, some time spent watching video action clips and a 12-team tournament.
The KHA also provided hockey sticks and balls for the youngsters and former international players turned up to help with coaching and talk to the young players about how they became international hockey players.
The major aim of the programme was to introduce young players to the game and inspire them to take up hockey, but the two day festival also highlighted the importance of sport for an individual’s health and well-being and provided a great opportunity for the youngsters to make friends among their peers.
Korea men are next competing at the Hockey World League Semi-Final in London in June, while the women will be competing in the FINTRO Hockey World League Semi-Final in Brussels.
For more information about hockey in Korea, click here.