December 25, 2018. At the moment I am in Seoul, Korea. It was not on my travel wish list, but I have two daughters captivated by K-pop (BTS actually), who are avid consumers of Korean food and fashion, and generally interested in all things kitschy K. So, here we are
And what a delightful place Seoul has turned out to be. Clean, organized, and fun, with some very interesting museums and politico-historical sites, and eating establishments of all styles and sizes.
Okay, okay, other cities are like that too. So, what do I find special about Seoul? The Demilitarized Zone, and the fact that the champion women golfers here are mega superstars. I was not aware of that until I arrived in K, and became immersed in the surroundings.
As I looked through the international golf rankings, I learnt that 4 of the top ten female golfers in the world are from South Korea, (and 8 0f the top twenty) and a player on the list of top ten who is from Australia, has Korean origins. Therefore, K-women and professional golf seem to have quite the equation.
I wonder how that transpired in the land of patriarchal Confucianism? As far as I know, golf in its current form has its roots in Scotland (over five hundred years ago) and was a man thing (surprise, surprise). After making the rounds in Europe, United States, and other Asian countries, it was in 1931 that the first golf course was built in Korea, while history records the Republic of Korea’s transition to democracy, with equal rights for men and women, occurring in 1997.
Apparently, the ‘Korean Wave’ of golf as it is called, started with Se-Ri Pak. In 1988, at the age of 20, she won the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Championship and US Women's Open, and three other tournaments, thereby paving the way for Korean women to aspire to be international golf champions. Between 1990 and 1994, reports indicate that over forty golf courses opened in Korea, and at present there over four hundred golf facilities in the country.
Se-Ri Pak’s accomplishments encouraged Korean women to take up professional golf, thereby increasing the number of people playing the sport, and that, coupled with the rapid expansion of facilities, made golf more accessible, socially and financially. Incidentally, the players born in and around 1988 are known as “Se-Ri kids.”
However, it cannot just be that wanting to play golf and having the ability to do so that makes champions. Se-Ri Pak is undoubtedly the motivating iconic role model, but a culture that stresses on hard work and career development for women, in addition to having both parental and governmental support, as well as media interest and corporate sponsorship, are all contributing factors to the success of Korean women in the international golfing arena.
The triumph is not only theirs though, the country too has benefitted if one thinks of global identity.
So,what does all these findings and analyses have to do with my trip?It has just made Seoul so much more interesting; it has taught me to be more supportive of my daughters’ choices;and I feel that not only have I learned something new this holiday, but by sharing it, hopefully girls and women will be inspired to accomplish whatever it is they wish. K-rocks!
Chintamoni grew up in Dhaka, where she will always belong, but never quite fit in. She is an enthusiastic traveller, a compulsive procrastinator, and a contumelious raconteur.