April 23, 2015

Baseball in South Korea: KBO League, 2015 location-map with 2014 attendances, and an analysis of KBO crowd sizes./ Plus an illustration for the reigning (4-straight) champions the Samsung Lions.

Filed under: Baseball,Korea: baseball — admin @ 9:42 pm

Baseball in South Korea: KBO League, 2015 location-map with 2014 attendances

Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) (
-KBO teams…KBO League/ Teams (
-KBO official site/schedule, scores, standings; About KBO, etc. (in English, with Korean option)…
-KBO 2015 season: standings, stats…2015 Korean Baseball Organization [sic] (
-KBO 리그의 공식 사이트
-My first post on KBO League (from Feb. 2010) has lots of info on the culture of Korean baseball,
Korea Baseball Organization: the 8 teams, with teams’ parent corporations listed, and baseball stadium photos ( 2010).

    Baseball in South Korea: KBO League, 2015 location-map with 2014 attendances

By Bill Turianski on 23 April 2015;
Demographics of South Korea
The population of South Korea is around 51.3 million {2014 estimate}. This puts South Korea as the 26th-most-populous nation on Earth. South Korea is very small, though: it is the 109th-largest country (at 100,210 km-sq or 66,690 mi-sq). That makes South Korea slightly smaller than Iceland, and slightly larger than Hungary. Largest city (by far) is, of course, Seoul…which is absolutely gigantic, and has a metro-area population that is fifth-largest on the planet. Seoul has a special-city population of around 10.1 million, and metro-area population of around 25.5 million ! {2014 figures). Only Tokyo, Japan (at ~36.9 million), Shanghai, Jakarta, and Delhi have larger metro-area populations than does Seoul. (I guess you learn something new everyday.) Basically, half of the population of South Korea resides in Seoul’s metropolitan area. South Korea has about the 30th-highest adjusted-GDP in the world {see this, List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita).

KBO League established 1982; title is called Korean Series championship; there are 10 teams in the KBO League/ season is 126 g/Apr-Oct
(KBO, or Korea Baseball Organization, is the governing body of the sport in the country).

Pro major-league baseball in South Korea began in 1982, with the institution of the KBO League as a 6-team league; a minor league was established eight years later in 1990 – the KBO Futures League. In 1986, the KBO League expanded to include a seventh team. In the first decade of its existence, the KBO League as a whole was only drawing in the 5 to 7 K range. By 1991, the KBO League had 8 teams. In 1995, cumulative attendance for the season finally topped 10 K per game, boosted by the exciting 1995 KBO season which saw three teams, the OB Bears, the LG Twins, and the Lotte Giants, go neck-to-neck for the pennant (the title in ’95 was won by the OB, now Doosan, Bears). However, this league attendance figure wasn’t surpassed for 14 years. After 1995, the KBO began to see dwindling fan interest that lasted for a decade. What first helped reverse the gradual slide in attendances from 1996 to 2004 was the good showing that the South Korean national baseball team had in the first World Baseball Classic, in 2005, when they finished in third. Another boost to the game there came three years later, when South Korea narrowly lost to Japan in extra innings in the second World Baseball Classic, and then six months later, the South Korean baseball team won the gold medal in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. These results convinced many South Korean sports fans that KBO baseball was a product worth supporting. In 2008, league-wide attendance shot up 2.3 K per game to 10.4 K; the next year [2009] it was 11.1 K, and the KBO League has drawn above 11 K ever since.

And there is no doubt that the caliber of Korean baseball players has improved in the last 25 years. There is a large number of South Koreans playing in Japan, in the Nippon Professional Baseball League. In the United States, in Major League Baseball, there are currently 5 Korean players, including LA Dodgers starting LHP pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu, and Cincinnati Reds slugger and OF Shin-Soo Choo {see this, List of Major League Baseball players from South Korea}.

KBO League in the last two-and-a-half decades (1990s through 2010s)/ including present-day make-up of the KBO League [2015]
There were a few franchise shifts in the ensuing two decades (1990s to 2010). It wasn’t until 2013 that the KBO League finally got a ninth team (the NC Dinos). Now, for 2015, the KBO League continues to exhibit robust signs of health by finally getting to the nice round figure of 10 teams, with the addition of the KT Wiz. The KT Wiz look to have a serious uphill climb though, seeing as how they started their KBO existence going 3-and-17 (!) and sit last (as of 24 April 2015/ 2015 table here).

The KBO League is, in 2015, comprised of the following…
5 teams from Greater Seoul/Incheon/Suwon (metropolitan-area Greater Seoul)
3 teams from Seoul’s core-city-region: (Doosan Bears, LG Twins, Nexen Heroes); and
2 teams from Greater Seoul, with one team in South Korea’s third-largest city of Incheon (SK Wyverns), and
one team about 19 miles south of Seoul-city-center in Suwon (the brand-new KBO team the KT Wiz; KT Wiz).
5 KBO teams from the rest of South Korea
The other 5 teams in the KBO League are comprised as follows [clockwise on the map]…
one team from the fifth-largest city, Daejon (Hanwah Eagles);
one team from the the fourth-largest city, Daegu (Samsung Lions);
one team from the second-largest city Busan, (Lotte Giants);
one team from the 8th-largest city, Changwon (recent-expansion-team NC Dinos; NC Dinos); and
one team from the sixth-largest city, Gwanju (KIA Tigers, who are the most successful team in KBO, with 10 titles, last in 2009).

    Attendances of KBO clubs in general

KBO League attendance in 2014 was 11,302 per game.

(Note: if you want to see year-by-year/team-by-team KBO League attendance figures, the link to the KBO site’s page on attendance can be found if you scroll down to the foot of this post, where you will see an instruction guide to translate the headers to English).

League-wide cumulative attendance in the KBO’s first division these days varies from around 11 K to 13 K per game, depending on how certain teams fare in any given season. With only 9 [now 10] teams in the KBO League, a few teams’ crowd-size variations can really skew the league numbers.

Lotte Giants weird crowd-size fluctuations and the possible harm of expansion in the KBO
The club with the biggest crowd variation from year-to-year is Lotte Giants of second-city Busan (which is on the south coast of the country). Generally speaking, Lotte can draw 20 K if the team is doing well (as in 2012), but they usually only draw about 12 K if the team is doing poorly (like in 2007 and 2014). But it is starting to appear that recent (2013) expansion in the KBO will end up hurting Lotte Giants’ ability to draw large crowds. It looks like nearby new team the NC Dinos (who are from Changwon, which is located about 25 miles west of Lotte Giants) might be starting to erode Lotte Giants’ crowd sizes. I say this because we have seen it happen elsewhere in top-division baseball in the recent past – namely, in the 2005 to 2011 time period, when the MLB’s Montreal franchise moved to Washington, DC and started to erode the nearby (~35 miles up the road) MLB team the Baltimore Orioles’ crowd sizes. The Orioles drew 34 K in 2004, but once Washington got an MLB team again, 6 years later the Orioles were only drawing in the mid-to-low-20s K (like drawing only 23.5 K in 2009, then only drawing an alarming 21 K in 2010). So the Nats were knocking off at least 5-to-7 K worth of attendance from the O’s circa the 2006-11 time frame, and it looked to be a problem until both those teams got competitive [circa 2013-on], and crowds for both the Nats and the O’s began to be in the healthy low-30-K range [circa 2014-and-on]). And the same could happen in the south-east coast of South Korea, because Lotte only drew 12.0 K in 2013, when they had a decent .532 winning percentage. Lotte were playing well in 2013, and going by the Lotte’s fanbases’ past behavior (ie, not going to the ballpark when Lotte were having a losing season), the ball club definitely should have been drawing at least in the 17-K-range, if not higher (for example, in 2010, Lotte had a .531 winning pct., and drew 17.8 K). The new factor of nearby fan-dollar competition has now emerged (2013 was NC Dinos’ debut season). NC Dinos, who draw 7-to-8 K, got competitive fast (with a .551 winning pct in their 2nd year in 2014). So it will be interesting to see how this new dynamic in the KBO plays out, and if the Lotte Giants will be able to overcome this imposition on their catchment area.

Other teams such as SK Wyverns of Incheon (crowd-size-variation from 12 K to 16 K), and Nexen Heroes of Seoul (crowd-size-variation from 6 K to 9 K) also have significantly variable crowd sizes in any given year.

The perennial highest drawing clubs in the KBO League are Seoul’s big two: the LG Twins and the Doosan Bears
The highest draws in KBO League are Seoul’s LG Twins and Doosan Bears. LG and Doosan share the second-largest ball park in the country, Jamsil Baseball Stadium (capacity 30,200) (Lotte Giants’ Busan Sajik Baseball Stadium is slightly larger at 30,500-capacity). Both LG Twins and OB Bears were charter members of KBO in 1982 (OB Bears were founded in Daejeon in 1982; the franchise moved to Seoul in 1985 [with same name kept], before being officially renamed the Doosan Bears in 1999). The OB Bears played their first season in Seoul in 1985 at a since-demolished stadium, then in 1986 moved over to the Jamsil stadium and have shared the venue with the Twins ever since [the Nexen Heroes also use the Jamsil stadium for big games/ see Nexen section a few lines below]. Both LG Twins and Doosan Bears’ attendance has improved considerably in the last decade, and both have drawn between 15 and 20 K in the last five seasons (2010-14). However, neither ball club is particularly successful, though, because the last of the LG Twins’ 2 titles was won in 1994, while the last of the OB/Doosan Bears’ 3 titles was won in 2001. So the big 2 of Seoul have become complacent.
3rd-best draw in KBO are SK Wyverns
Besides the aforementioned take-em-or-leave-em nature of Lotte’s fickle fanbase, the only other team in South Korea that can draw in the thirteen-to-fifteen-K-range is the SK Wyverns, a relatively new club (est. 2000), from the far-western-part of Greater Seoul in the city of Incheon. SK, whose nickname of ‘wyvern’ refers to a type of dragon, basically drew terrible in their early days (ie, 2.6 K in their second season in 2001), but once they started racking up the first of their 3 titles (2007, 2008, 2010), the ball club stated drawing better, and now can easily draw in the 12 to 15 K range, and SK Wyverns drew 12.9 K last year [2014].
Worst-drawing KBO club is Nexen Heroes (from the western-side of Seoul)
The lowest-drawing club in the KBO League is Seoul’s ugly-stepchild-club, the title-less Nexen Heroes (est. 2008), who draw between 5 and 8 K. The Nexen Heroes did come close to glory last season, though, when they drew 6.9 K and made it to their first Korean Series, but fell to the Samsung Lions in 6 games {see this, 2014 Korean Series}.

    Hats off to reigning KBO camps the Samsung Lions

Samsung Lions are the second-most successful baseball club in South Korea, with 8 titles – four of which they have won consecutively (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014). The dark-sky-blue-and-silver Samsung Lions draw between 6 and 9 K at their snug, 10 K-capacity Daegu Baseball Stadium, in Daegu. Daegu, which is located inland in the south-east of the Korean peninsula, is the fourth-largest city in South Korea, and has a metro-area population of around 2.4 million.

Samsung Lions drew 7.8 K last year, which made them the team that filled their ballpark the best in the KBO in 2014 (ie, the highest percent-capacity, at 78.9). The Samsung Lions have won all their four straight Korean Series championships under manager Ryu Joong-il. In 2014, the Lions boasted three sluggers who hit 30 HR or more (Hyoung-woo Choi, Yamaico Navarro, and Lee Seung-yeop); those 3 players are featured below…
Photo and Image credits above –
Logo/cap/batting helmet, illustration by 삼성 라이온즈
Ryu Joong-il, photo by Yonhop at
Hyoung-woo Choi, photo by Yonhop via
Yamaico Navarro, photo unattributed at
Lee Seung-yeop, photo unattributed at
Action photo from April 2015 at Daegu Baseball Stadium with crowd behind home plate, photo by Solmin at
Samsung Lions cheerleaders and crowd at Daegu Baseball Stadium, photo by LHD at
Mascot-logo illustration by
Thanks to all at the following links…
-Globe-map of South Korea, by Ksiom at File:South Korea (orthographic projection).svg (
-Blank map of South Korea, by NordNordWest at :FileSouth Korea location map.svg (
-Attendance… (
-A very Big Thanks to Dan at, for tweeting me the 2015 KBO League attendances AND translating the headers there :) ;

How to read KBO League attendance figures (at the official KBO site) if you can’t read Korean…
1.) go here.
2). use the following list to translate the [non-acronym] headers…”From left – right: Samsung, KIA, Lotte, LG, Doosan, Hanhwa, SK, Nexen, NC, KT, Hyundai, Ssangbangwool’.
3). PS, Hyundai and Ssangbangwool are defunct KBO teams.

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