Skip to content
You are here: Home South Korean History
A Short History of Korean Baseball
Written by Andrew Wong   
Friday, 31 December 2010 01:31
  • It was about a hundred years ago that baseball was first introduced to Korea, in 1905 baseball was introduced by an American missionary. But it wasn't until 1982 that the Korean Baseball Organization was formed.
  • The KBO was formed on December 11, 1981, with a foundation of six teams - Samsung, Lotte, MBC, OB, Haitai and Sammi. The teams' names are not names of places like in the U.S. Their names are names of the corporations who sponsor the teams. On March 27, 1982 the first professional baseball game in Korea was played with former president Doo-hwan Jeon throwing out the first pitch before a soldout crowd at Seoul's Dongdamum Stadium.
  • The game was between Samsung and MBC and Samsung's Man-soo Lee had the honour of hitting the first home run of the KBO. Other season records include OB pitcher Chul-soon Park winning a world record 22 games in a row and MBC's In-chun Baik hitting .412.
  • In 1986, the play-off system was implemented with the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams playing a best of five series, of which the winning team plays in the best of seven Korean Series. The Haitai Tigers were in their heydays and demolished the Samsung Lions in the '86 Korean Series. After Game 3, Samsung fans set fire to the Haitai team bus after the Lions lost the 3rd game. Also, OB and MBC shared Chamsil Stadium as their home stadium and Lotte moved into 30,000-seat Sajik Stadium.
  • In 1987, the KBO's first commissioner, Jong-Chul Seo, retired and the Chungbo Pintos were sold to Pacific Group and were renamed the Taepyungyang (Pacific) Dolphins.
  • The post-season playoff system was redesigned in 1989 with the semi play-off system which involved teams playing in phases from the 4th ranked team.
  • 1990 saw changes in the teams with MBC being sold to the Lucky-Goldstar group and being called the LG Twins, and the establishment of the Ssangbangwool Raiders. Finally, expansion was complete and to this day, eight teams remain. In their first year, the Twins won the Korean Series. Also in this year, the Korean and Japanese professional baseball leagues signed an agreement to hold the Super Game every four years in Japan. The Super Game was an exhibition series between Korean and Japanese baseball players.
  • In '91, Binggrae Eagles slugger Jong-hoon Chang set a new record with 41 home runs.
  • 1993 was the year when the parent company of the Eagles changed their name to Hanhwa and that is why the Hanhwa Eagles are what they are called today. Chan-Ho Park stirred controversy by signing with MLB's Los Angeles Dodgers for $1.2 million US before his draft eligible year in Korea. Park was a sophomore pitcher at Hanyang University.
  • In Lausanne, Switzerland (1996), it was decided that professional ball players may participate in the Olympics. 1996 also marked the year that Hyundai Unicorns' Jae-hong Park became the first player ever to hit the 30-30 club with 30 homers and 30 stolen bases.
  • In 1997, the KBO allowed foreign players to play in South Korea and the first foreign player draft is held in St. Petersburg, Flordia. A total of 36 players were drafted. The Tigers also win their ninth championship and record their 1000th franchise win.
  • In '98, Tyrone Woods eclipses the home run mark with his 42nd home run of the season and is also named the MVP. Woods would go on to become the longest serving foreign player before signing with the Yokohama Bay Stars of the Japanese leagues to begin the 2003 season. Dae-chul Jung resigns as commissioner, citing personal reasons for the decision and Yong-oh Park, former owner of the OB Bears and president of the Doosan group, is nominated the 13th commissioner in league history.
  • In 1999, the league was divided into two leagues, Dream and Magix through public consultation. The two league system was in place for two years, but there were only eight teams and since having two leagues made no difference, it was changed back to the single league system in year 2001. At the end of the '99 season, a free agent system was implemented which allowed players with more than 10 years of experience to negotiate freely with any club.
  • 2001: Doosan Bears' Woods becomes the only player to win an MVP award at All-Star Game, Korean Series and in the playoffs. A posting system is also established so that when a Korean professional baseball player wishes to play in the U.S., they can be posted to the 30 Major League teams with the highest bidding team being able to negotiate a contract.
  • Korean baseball is improving as they picked up their first medal in baseball at the 2000 Sydney Olympics with a bronze, beating out Japan. Korea has seen many players jump to the Major Leagues in the U.S. with the likes of Chan Ho Park of the Texas Rangers, Hee Seop Choi of the Chicago Cubs, Byung Hyun Kim of the Arizona Diamondbacks and with many more to come.

Current Teams:

Samsung Lions 

Lotte Giants 

Kia Tigers 

LG Twins 

Hyundai Unicorns

Doosan Bears

SK Wyverns

Hanhwa Eagles

What's A Season Like?

  • They play 133 games a season. In the playoffs the 4th place team in the regular season plays the 3rd place team for best of 3 series. The winner of that series plays the 2nd place team of the regular season for best of 5. The winner of that series plays for the championship with the first place team of the regular season for best of 7. Every team plays for the right to win the Korean Series championship.
  • Awards
  • Obviously, the KBO has the MVP, Rookie of the Year and the usual suspects. In the Korean Series, there is the Korean Series MVP.
  • Seeing A Game
  • South Korea is a fairly small country so fans of a particular team usually travel to their road games too. For example, fans of the LG Twins would go over to Taegu to watch their team battle it out with the Samsung Lions.

NOTE: This is very important. If you're offended by having your kids see cheerleaders dancing in front of them, don't go to a game. In South Korea, they have cheerleaders to rally the home crowd and of course, they also have the mascot.



“SABR is the Phi Beta Kappa of baseball, providing scholarship which the sport has long needed ... An excellent way for all of us to add to our enjoyment of the greatest game."

Ernie Harwell, Broadcaster,
Detroit Tigers

"SABR is baseball’s best-kept secret ... its benefits are many for the advanced fan, the aspiring professional, or simply those who cannot get enough good baseball talk and text."

John Thorn, Official Historian,
Major League Baseball

Join SABR today!

Join us on Facebook