22 May 2013

Korean 야구

If there's one thing I can say to sum up baseball in Korea it's this: it is most definitely not the same experience that it is back home.  Unless of course your local stadium allows pop-up 711 shops to sell canned beers at regular price, boasts geriatric people outside the front gates selling dried squid and something else with tentacles in a cup, and involves a lot of choreographed dancing/clapping/cheering throughout the entirety of the 9+ innings.  Welcome to... Korean baseball.

From the moment you get off of the subway (the station for the baseball stadium is called Sports Complex, 5 stops East of Gangnam on the Green line - for my friends in Korea) you know you're in for a wildly strange and frighteningly hectic afternoon.

The first thing you notice is probably the amount of people in Bears/Twins gears.  Korean people go all out when it comes to repping their team - basically imagine a stadium full of Yankee fans but for both teams and every single weekend.  They are incredibly fanatic about sub-par baseball playing, apparently.  The two aforementioned teams share the stadium and obviously just switch home weekends for games.

The second thing you'll notice is perhaps the sounds.  Between people who are already inebriated (3pm, long hair who cares?) yelling their conversations at each other to people demonstrating their insanely loud inflatable plastic thundersticks to the dozens of strange vendors trying to sell you cheap beer and dried squid, it's a hot mess.  Which brings me to my next glaring difference between Korean and American baseball: the food.

Good old American baseball, hot dogs, shitty fried food, beer from the tap, and of course all sold at a rate inflated by at least 250% of what you would pay outside of the stadium gates.  In Korea, you wanna bring your beer in with you?  It's already open and you've been drinking it on the subway for the last hour you've been commuting from your home?  No big deal.  But if you didn't think ahead, there are plenty of GS25s (think 7-11) inside and outside of the gates that are happy to sell you beer for - what's this - regular price?  And of course 'regular price' in Korea means like 2 dollars for a big can of beer.  You pay for quality here, just FYI, so don't get too ahead of yourselves on the jealousy thing.  If beer isn't your thing, that's okay... you can always buy... Dunkin Donuts.  Or Burger King nuggets that have been pre-packaged since 9 that morning.  Or a bucket of KFC that probably definitely isn't more than 24% chicken.  And of course you can buy a whole pizza with toppings like corn and cabbage and kimchi and dog meat (just kidding on the last three... I think).  We usually opt for beer and some sort of really healthy ice cream or candy thing, a big pass on the dried fish products for us foreign folks.

At this point I'd like to make something very very clear - getting tickets to a Korean baseball game is not as simple as one might assume.  First of all, Korean is hard.  I barely read/speak it, and I can get through about 2% of the webpage where you are directed from the English website to buy tickets online.  So that was a major bust.  You'd think that with games starting at 5pm, getting to the stadium when the ticket office opens at 2pm would be more than enough time to secure a few outfield seats, right?  Wrong!  So wrong!  Out of three attempts on three different weekends (we tried both Saturday and Sunday), we only managed to make it in the stadium for one game.  The first weekend, completely sold out.  Granted the game was two Seoul teams playing against each other so we kind of figured it would be a long shot from the start.  The second weekend, no problem, totally empty stadium.  Great seats with basically an entire section to ourselves for less than $6 USD per ticket.  The third weekend, bust - and this is the most messed up story of all!  We actually secured outfield tickets, but when we went in the stadium about half hour before the game begun we realized that basically all of the seats were taken (no reserved seats in outfield).  As we walked around the perimeter we noticed people sitting on the stairs, laying out picnic blankets and food and chairs IN THE MIDDLE OF THE WALKWAYS and basically just setting up camp wherever they damn well felt like doing it.  I went out to ask to buy a different ticket or have my ticket refunded and the lady at the ticket office basically just said, "no, you just have to stand."  My response was, "stand where?"  Also I'm sorry but stand for 9 innings with imminent rain and no place to put my bag?  Think again lady.  Bye.

The Sunday that we actually were successful in getting in was great!  The game was pretty funny, not the best baseball playing I've ever seen, but entertaining.  We left at the top of the 8th inning because the score was 16-0.  Come.  On.  Apparently the night ended at 17-5.  Still pathetic.  Korean cheering is off the charts though!  These people mean business.  It reminded me of the first time I went to a club with mostly Korean people and they start breaking out into these bizarre choreographed dances during certain songs... leaving the rest of us standing there staring into our drinks like, wha?  That was basically what was happening in the cheering sections, except on steroids for 3 straight hours... with thundersticks.

 The very last thing I have to share about Korean basbeall: the team names.  Doosan Bears, Kia Tigers, Hanwha Eagles, Lotte Giants, LG Twins, Samsung Lions... you get the picture.  All of the teams in the KBO include the name of the business conglomerate (or chaebol) that owns them, instead of using the name of the team's hometown like we do back home.  Very strange indeed.  Makes it all seem less fun and personal to me, honestly... which is strange because I guarantee KBO players make like 5% of what MLB players make annually, so they really do play more for the love of it than the paycheck.  Perhaps.

Moral of the story: there's a great deal more Korean baseball in my future.  Hopefully I learn to use the Korean ticketing webiste sooner rather than later.


  1. get tickets for us when we come~ if you can.?

    1. Mother, is that you? You know if you comment anon I don't know who you are... if you guys wanna go I'll see what I can do! I was thinking the horse races might be fun, too?