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Thailand Wins First Taekwondo Gold

Posted April. 24, 2006 03:22,   


Bangkok’s Hua Mark Stadium was packed with some 6,000 spectators who came to watch the 17th Asian Taekwondo Championship yesterday.

National pride soared among Thai fans as their athletes won two gold medals and three silvers, including the gold from the nation’s female taekwondo idol Yaowapa Boorapolchai (22). The best record Thai achieved in previous Asian Championship play was a bronze medal.

Taekwondo has become tremendously popular in Thailand since Boorapolchai won a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Thailand’s Channel 11 aired the semifinals and finals of all weight classes live from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m. everyday.

The national fervor for the contact sport is fueling the marketing engines of Korean companies.

Eco-appliance maker Woongjin Coway landed in the Thai market in 2003 and is a proud sponsor of the Thai national taekwondo team. Woongjin provides uniforms, taekwondo outfits to the team, and incentive bonuses to award winners. A gold medalist is awarded with fifty thousand baht, which is not an insignificant sum of money when the median monthly salary of a college graduate in Thailand is around ten thousand baht.

Samsung Electronics is offering computers, refrigerators and various commodities to the team, while Asiana Airlines is providing free flight tickets for athletes on their official travels.

Thai national team coach Choi Young-seok (33) says support from Korean companies is a big boost to the team’s morale, and that athletes will continue to achieve their best and entertain the Thai fans.

Jae-Yun Jung jaeyuna@donga.com