The most well-known sports leaders around the world include people like Cristiano Ronaldo, Serena Williams, Tom Brady, and LeBron James. Korean athletes, on the other hand, are usually not household names outside of South Korea. But you may be surprised to learn the following names of Korean athletes as they represent some of the best physical specimens in the world.
Note: Korean athletes who were born before 1980 were not considered for this list. The rankings should not be taken too seriously since they are not meant to be highly objective. Comparing a baseball player to a swimmer, for instance, is more art than science. Having said that, the ones ranked No. 1 through No. 5 all have been "the best in the world" at some point. They are also gold medalists of major sporting events such as the Olympics or Asian Games.
1. Kim Yuna (김연아) - Figure Skating
In recent years, perhaps no other athlete has brought more joy to the people in South Korea than Yuna Kim. Before she rose to the very top of figure-skating in 2010, there were no other notable figure skaters from South Korea. But things are quite different now. Many young Korean girls and boys are dreaming to be the next "Kim Yuna" (the name is pronounced "gheem-yuh-nah" in Korean).
Since Kim retired from figure skating in 2014, she has been a key figure in promoting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
2. Kim Yeon-koung (김연경) - Volleyball
She may not be as famous as Kim Yuna, but Kim Yeon-koung is respectably No. 2 on this list. (She is also the tallest of the nine athletes, standing at 192 cm tall.)
Simply put, she is one of the best female volleyball players to ever play the game. Kim Yeon-koung has brought nothing but "Ws" for her teams in South Korea, Turkey, and now China. In 2016, Giovanni Guidetti (a Dutch volleyball coach) said, "Kim Yeon-koung is something special. I've never seen anything like that in my 20 years in volleyball." Maybe we never will again.
3. Park Inbee (박인비) - Golf
Inbee Park looks pretty much like a typical Korean woman. Being only 168 cm tall, she hardly appears to be a top athlete. However, she is so good at playing golf, even Stephen Curry praised her publicly.
Park was ranked the No. 1 female golfer in the world in 2014 and has won seven major titles so far, making her one of the richest female athletes in the world. No wonder people envy Inbee. (Get it?)
4. Park Tae-hwan (박태환) - Swimming
Korean swimmers were never considered the best in the world, but everything changed when Park Tae-hwan arrived. The "Marine Boy," as many people in South Korea call him, has won four Olympic gold medals and dozens of others. In 2008, he joined three other men (including Michael Phelps) to ever break the 1:45 barrier in men's 200M freestyle final.
5. Lee Sang-hwa (이상화) - Speed Skating
For some reason, Koreans are known to be some of the best speed skaters in the world. That is why it has been said that it's easier to win the gold at the Olympics than to make the cut for the Korean team. Well, one skater probably doesn't worry about any of that stuff. Lee Sang-hwa, an Olympic gold medalist, has broken so many records in Women's speed skating, sometimes she even broke her previous world records. Not bad, Lee. Not bad.
6. Son Heung-min (손흥민) - Football (Soccer)
Football fans, or soccer fans, might have heard of Korean footballers' names such as Park Ji-sung (박지성) or Ki Sung-yueng (기성용). But recently, Son Heung-min might have become the best Korean football player ever. In late 2017, he set the record by scoring more goals than any other Asian player in Premier League's history. Son surely shines, doesn't he?
7. Chung Hyeon (정현) - Tennis
Before this year, not many people knew Chung Hyeon existed. Not even people in South Korea. But Chung made headline news when he beat one of the best tennis players in the world in Novak Djokovic at the 2018 Australian Open.
The media immediately started calling him "the Professor" because of his special-looking glasses. But I have a better nickname for Chung. How about "the Express?" Why? Well, because he can deliver.
8. Choo Shin-soo (추신수) - Baseball
Koreans love baseball. It is a national sport just like it is in the United States, Cuba, and Japan. That means some of the best Korean athletes naturally choose baseball over other sports. Choo Shin-soo is no exception. He started playing baseball when he was only seven or eight years old. Choo has now become one of the best hitters in Korean baseball history. He is currently playing for the Texas Rangers in Major League Baseball.
9. Kim Dong-hyun (김동현) - MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)
The rankings started with the one of most beautiful sports in figure skating. Well, this one isn't so pretty, folks. It is rather ugly and mean. But that's probably okay by Dong Hyun "Stun Gun" Kim. He rose to fame when he beat Jason Tan in the UFC, making him the first Korean to win in the octagon. Since then, he has enjoyed many more fights, including the one against Erick Silva as shown in the video.