Women Outnumber Men in South Korea’s Sports Stadiums

Each time the South Korean men’s soccer team scored against Singapore during a recent 5-0 rout in a World Cup qualifier, the roar from the home crowd came largely from women, who held nearly two-thirds of the tickets to the match.

In the Seoul stadium that November day, a billboard-size banner for the star striker Son Heung-min had been made by a women-only group. A banner for one of his teammates — “Cho Gue-sung wins the day” — had been signed by a club called “Women Rooting for Cho Gue-sung’s Pursuit of Happiness.”

The scene illustrated a fact that has puzzled experts in one of the world’s most patriarchal societies: In sports, South Korean women generally outnumber men in the stands.

Women here make up 55 percent of fans at professional sporting events, including baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball, according to a 2022 estimate by the Korea Professional Sports Association. Similar estimates for major sports in the United States put the figure at less than half for women. In Britain and Australia, that number drops to a quarter or less.

Fans and sports experts attribute South Korea’s high rate of female fandom partly to the sense of security at the country’s sports venues. Others say it’s influenced by a national fan culture powered by intense worship of stars, who are in some cases heartthrobs.

“People don’t think of the players as athletes, but as celebrities,” said Yim Subin, 24, who attends games and fan meet-ups, and watches baseball on TV every day of the season. “It’s not much different from the way K-pop fans follow their idols.”

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