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Golf Boom Never Dies in South Korea
"Libellula" Wins Hearts and Minds of New Generation
CEO Lee Jong-Hwan (center) of "FM Global" poses with S. Korea's professional golfers Song Ho-Uk (right) and Lee Ju-Young at the 34th GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship held at Nam Seoul Country Club in Seongnam City east of Seoul on May 14-17, 2015.

The depth of South Koreans' passion for golf seems to be nearly unfathomable when the number of golf lovers in advanced countries dwindles in recent years.

One out of 10 South Koreans is now enjoying golf in some way or others. Lovers of golf in the nation has reached almost 5 million out of South Korea's total population of 50 million.

As of the end of 2014 the number of South Koreans enjoying golf is estimated to 4.8 million, according to Korea Golf Association (KGA).

KGA estimates that the potential number of golf population could reach 10 million out of its total population of 50 million.

Local media are also equally ardent in covering a series of golf tournaments and events taking place ceaselessly in the nation.

Scores of South Korean media recently flocked to the news room of a local golf course just east of Seoul to cover a golf event hosted by a local economic daily of Maeil.

South Korea's professional golfer Lee Ju-Young tries his best in a game at the 34th GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship held at Nam Seoul Country Club in Seongnam City east of Seoul on May 14-17, 2015.
Photo by Pak Myung-Hoon

The 34th GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship, held at Nam Seoul Country Club in Seongnam City east of Seoul on May 14-17, 2015, drew a huge attention from both the media and people of golf industry as well.

The "Maekyung Open," one of South Korea's four major men's golf events, is dubbed Korean version of the Masters Tournament, one of the four major championships in world's professional golf.

Many manufacturers of South Korea's golf wear also flocked to the venue of the golf event to seek media's attention for their golf brand.

Among them was Mr. Lee Jong-Hwan, CEO and president of a local golf wear manufacturer "FM Global," an up and rising golf manufacturer in South Korea.

Lee chose two professional golf players, Song Ho-Uk and Lee Ju-Young, for the promotion of his golf brand "libellula" and both took part in the "Maekyung Open" golf event this time.

Lee says that he loved playing golf so much that he jumped into manufacturing golf wear on his own 10 years ago on the strength of the growing number of locals enjoying golf.

An enthusiast for golf himself, Lee rates his own golf skill as "almost" the level of professional golfers.

As Lee points out, the number of South Koreans enjoying golf has dramatically increased in the recent two decades or so.

"The number doubled to over 5 million from 2.5 million over the last 10 years alone," Lee says. "Even more South Koreans are expected to enjoy golf in years ahead"

CEO Lee Jong-Hwan of "FM Global" poses with Chairman Park Jong-Hoon at the 34th GS Caltex Maekyung Open Golf Championship held at Nam Seoul Country Club in Seongnam City east of Seoul on May 14-17, 2015.

In a small country, only the size of America's New Jersey, over 500 golf courses are in operation now. There were only 44 golf courses around the country in South Korea 2001.

Lee says rise in income and the introduction of five-day work system are the main reason behind the rapid growth of golf industry.

"Two or three decades ago playing golf was socially blamed for being a 'luxury sports' or 'sports for royal family' in the nation," Lee recalls. "Now just about everybody seems to enjoy golf"

Lee explains that golf was introduced into Korea roughly 100 years ago but it was the past two decades that South Koreans' interest in golf grew rapidly.

Golf-related industry in South Korea has grown by leaps and bounds, as well. Production of golf items including golf clubs, golf balls, golf wear, golf shoes, and golf bags, grew correspondingly.

"FM Global" golf pants displayed by its designers at work studio in Seoul

Currently, South Korea's golf industry is the world's third largest only after the US and Japan.

The market of South Korea's golf-related items reached nearly 3 trillion won a couple of years back.

In particular South Korea's golf wear market is the lion's share of the golf products industry.

South Korea's golf wear market alone hit 2. 7trillion billion won in 2014 and is expected to reach nearly 3 trillion won soon, according to local golf industry sources.

Among South Korea's hundreds of manufacturers of golf wear is FM Global based in Seoul's Junggok-dong area.

Lee designs golf wear himself with the assistance of profession designers, chooses high-quality functional fabrics to produce the best possible golf wear products.

Currently, he produces some 40 different kinds of T-shirts, pants, belts, and caps with his employees directly from his factory in Seoul.

"Most South Korean manufacturers of golf wear produce their goods in such countries as Vietnam, China, and Indonesia," Lee says. "But our products are produced all here in Korea"

Lee describes his brand "colorful, unique, and young," targeted at younger generation of golf lovers.

With the help of a professional namer Lee created his own brand "libellula," meaning dragon fly in Italian a couple of years ago.

"I hope that both local Koreans or foreigners can wear our brands and enjoy golf," Lee adds. "I will keep enjoying golf and keep making golf wear"

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