The most famous sport that is thought to have originated in Korea is taekwondo, a martial art that is most predominantly focused on kicking.
Due to the major cultural influences of western nations, including the United States, many sports that originated abroad are also popular in the country.
Predominantly-American sports like baseball and basketball are some of the most popular, but American football isn’t one of them.
Korean College Football
This is not to say American football doesn’t exist within the country at all. The Korea American Football Association (or KAFA for short) has existed in the country since 1945. Like in the United States, the sport is mostly played at the college level, with three major universities taking part. The first two, Dong-eui University and Yonsei University, have been playing American football since 1977, and Dankook University joined them in 2015.
In addition to college football, the Korea National Football League (KNFL) is the league for professional American football players. It currently has just 7 teams, including three Seoul-based teams and an official Samsung team. Up until 2016, the league operated in a similar way to the NFL in the United States in that it was split into two divisions with the winner of each competing in the Gwanggaeto Bowl. Since then, the league has had a format closer to European sports like association football, with all the teams playing each other throughout the season. The top two teams then compete in the Gwanggaeto Bowl.
In contrast to the NFL in the United States, the winner of the Gwanggaeto Bowl competes against the winner of the college football winner in the Kimchi Bowl, a competition named after the country’s national dish.
Watching NFL in Korea
American football is more likely to grow with greater influence from the NFL. However, this is limited due to there being few opportunities to watch NFL games in the country. Any fans wishing to legally watch the AFC North favorites, Baltimore Ravens, play a game will have to fork out for GamePass to stream it live, which can get very pricey.
How to Drive Growth
American football is a game that struggles outside of the United States and a few other countries in continental America. This is partly down to the rules being different and difficult to understand if you’re completely new to the sport. It is also due to the fact that most other countries have other sports that are similar, including rugby and association football. The NFL has made some progress in Europe with its NFL London games and international television networks broadcasting the Super Bowl.
This remains the same for Korea, where association football and rugby are much more popular. American football did see an increase in popularity in 2006 when Hines Ward, a Pittsburgh Steelers player who had been born in Korea, visited the country.
Perhaps, therefore, the way to promote the sport more in Korea is for the NFL to bring more Korean players into its league.