- Numbers of female fans at South Korean baseball games rising
- Next year, there could be as many women as men in the stands
- Clubs are catering to demand by selling jerseys, hats and headbands
- Baseball is the national pastime in South Korea
Chances are, if you're heading to a ball game in South Korea, the screaming fan to your left will be a woman wielding an inflatable tube.
More and more female fans are packing the stadiums to cheer on their favorite teams in the Korean Baseball Organization, so much so that next year organizers predict there'll be as many women as men.
"A couple of years ago, men versus women were 60/40. But this year it looks like 55/45. And the number of the female fans is going to be increasing more and more," says Nick Choi, a spokesman for the Seoul-based LG Twins.
Baseball is the national pastime in South Korea. The league has nine teams that are spread out across the country of roughly 50 million.
The atmosphere in the stadiums has been compared to the largest karaoke performance in the world. The bleachers rock as fans chant, sing and hit inflatable tubes together while their teams are up to bat.
Seo Yeon-mi, wearing a LG Twins jersey and hat, has been coming to games for 15 years. She and her best friend rarely miss a game. "I got an annual ticket and I come to almost every home game," says Yeon-mi.
But when it comes to devoted fans Jay Kim takes the cake. The businesswoman flew home to South Korea during a short holiday break to see her team play.
"I'm a kind of a diehard baseball fan," screams Jay Kim, over the din of the stadium. "I live in Dubai now but I came here for a holiday for two days to watch this baseball game."
Kim Ha-eun is one of the game's newer fans. She decided to go to her first game with her brother and uncle after her father was unable to attend. Ha-eun had watched baseball on the television, but was surprised by what she found.
"I never watched (live) baseball games before and today is the first time watching an actual game and this is just wonderful," she says. "It's really entertaining and watching the cheerleaders dancing is really really cool! I just love it."
It just took one game to hook Ha-eun. She plans on returning to the ballpark soon but this next time with a LG Twins Jersey.
So what's behind the increase in female fans?
Many people we talked to spoke about the roar and energy of the crowd and the skill of the cheerleaders dancing. Others talked about the play on the field but all agreed on one main reason.
"LG Twins players are very handsome," says Choi. "That is why there are a lot of female fans."
"All the players are so attractive," agrees Kim.
The clubs have taken note of the increase in female fans and sell everything from jerseys, hats and headbands to target this growing demographic.
They are also trying to keep the energy levels high even when the players aren't on the field.
"We have an organized cheering team," says Choi. "We also provide different activities between each inning like kissing time, beer drinking contests and those kinds of events."
But the teams have also noticed an unexpected twist to this phenomenon.
"If you attract women to the stadium, you attract men as well," laughs Choi. "In Korean culture, whatever a woman wants to do, that is what a man will do."