The field of sports announcers in South Korea was largely dominated by men; however, the trend has been shaken up and female sports announcers are now bringing more insight to sports fans around the country.
Kim Min-a, Choi Hee, Kong Seo-young and Bae Ji-hyun are among today’s most popular and successful female sports announcers in Korea. All in their late 20s to early 30s, they have the looks of supermodels, yet it is their varied backgrounds and ceaseless efforts that earned each of them “ballpark stardom.”
Kim Min-a, sports announcer from MBC Sports Plus (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Kim Min-a, a 30-year-old former figure skater, is a sixth-year veteran sports announcer for MBC Sports Plus.
At the beginning of her career, Kim moved from covering Korean traditional wrestling and marathons to figure skating, which Kim had given up after 10 years due to a sprain in her Achilles tendon.
“I think the male fans were surprised and maybe a little uncomfortable at the beginning to see a woman talking about baseball on television,” Kim said, describing her experience as a baseball announcer at the beginning.
Choi Hee, sports announcer from KBSN (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
KBSN’s 27-year-old sports announcer Choi Hee has been a big sports enthusiast since she was a child. Choi registered as a child member of a professional basketball team while in elementary school. In college, Choi fell in love with soccer and served as a manager for Yonsei University’s varsity soccer team.
The odds were stacked against Choi from the start.
“I would be the only woman in an elevator full of male announcers,” said Choi. “First of all, I had to overcome that fear of being alone and feeling embarrassed in a male-dominant work environment.”
Kong Seo-young, sports announcer from XTM (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Kong Seo-young spent her early years auditioning to become a singer. Losing her father in a car accident as a child and also being the first daughter at home, Kong had a special sense of responsibility toward her family. Kong made her debut as a sports announcer in 2010, embarking on a new and uncertain path.
“Baseball gave me a second chance in life,” said Kong, who is now the leading sports announcer for the cable television network XTM. “Everyone’s story is different. I want to tell the precious story of the players whose lives depend on fierce competitions every day.”
Bae Ji-hyun, sports announcer from SBS ESPN (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Bae Ji-hyun, unlike the three other announcers, dreamed to be an announcer since she was little. Due to her stunning figure, however, Bae auditioned to become a supermodel and walked the runway for one year after graduating from college.
Into her third year now as SBS ESPN’s announcer, however, she became a superstar in the field.
“I was nervous for the whole year,” said Bae, describing her first year in the job. “I had no prior knowledge of baseball, so I had to study extensively in order to follow four different games at once.”
Watching female sports announcers on television nowadays has become commonplace. As such, the competition among them has become fierce, too. For baseball fans, however, the competition between these “goddesses of ballparks” will continue.
By Kwon Bum-joon