Go to contents

Racing to Make History at the Dong-A Marathon

Posted February. 04, 2010 09:09,   


The Dong-A Marathon, which debuted with a noon siren on March 21, 1931, has conveyed the dreams and a message of hope to the Korean people.

The race was a catalyst for easing the people’s anger and sorrow stemming from the yoke of Japanese colonial rule, and generated a flurry of records to spearhead a grassroots boom in the marathon following national liberation in 1945.

The event’s name was changed to the Dong-A Seoul International Marathon in the 2000s, but most Koreans continue to call it the Dong-A Marathon in view of its place in the history of Korean marathons.

○ Rich history

All of the best Korean marathoners have competed in the Dong-A Marathon. They include the late Kim Eun-bae, who finished sixth in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics; the late Son Ki-jung, the gold medalist of the 1936 Berlin Olympics; Hwang Young-jo, the 1992 Barcelona Olympics gold medal winner who is now coach of the Korea Sports Promotion Foundation’s marathon team; Lee Bong-ju, a silver medalist in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics; and Korea’s latest hopeful Ji Young-joon.

Son finished runner-up in his first Dong-A Marathon in 1932 and won the event in the event’s third edition a year later to emerge as Korea’s top runner. He won the Olympic gold medal in Berlin with a time of two hours, 29 minutes and 19 seconds.

The Dong-A Ilbo removed the Japanese national flag on his uniform in the photo showing his win on August 25, 1936, instilling Koreans with a sense of national pride.

The Dong-A Marathon is called the birthplace of Korean marathon records as 10 of the country’s 28 records in the sport were set there. The event in 1994 also introduced for the first time in Korea the masters’ category, which allowed amateurs to join.

In 2006, a record 24,401 runners competed in the masters’ category and 22,746 will do so this year.

○ Emerging as a world-class marathon

The event’s venue was changed from Gyeongju, South Gyeongsang Province, to Seoul in 2000 because the foremost prerequisite to become a world-class marathon is for the venue to be the host country’s capital.

Records are essential for a race to earn world recognition. The secretariat of the Dong-A Seoul International Marathon has changed the course seven times since 2000 to allow competitors to enjoy a convenient run.

The competition has also invited world-renowned runners holding times in the range of two hours and five or six minutes, including those from Kenya, Ethiopia and South Africa.

Gert Thys of South Africa set a record for Korean marathons, a mark that ranked sixth among times set in international marathons in 2004. This helped the Seoul marathon earn global recognition.

The top seven men’s times of Korea were all set at the Seoul marathon.

The event is also the largest domestic marathon in the number of runners in the masters’ category, a big fundraiser for charity, and is broadcast to 62 countries.

The Dong-A Ilbo Gyeongju International Marathon was promoted to an IAAF Silver Race this year, up from bronze label since becoming an international race in 2006. Among other marathons in Korea this year, the Chosun Ilbo Chuncheon Marathon and the JoongAng Ilbo Marathon are classified as bronze label.