News & ToursJune 10, 2009

South Korea: Are skating moms the new golf dads?

The New York Times has an insightful story on South Korean skating star Yu-Na Kim, who won the World Figure Skating Championships recently, and the role her mother played in Kim's success. The writer, Sang-Hun Choe, equates it to the role Joon-chul Pak played in his daughter Se Ri Pak's success in golf and how it launched a women's golf movement that has resulted in the enormous influx of South Korean players on the LPGA.

"Before 'skating moms,' South Korea had 'golf dads,' a trend set off by the success of Pak Se-ri, and the role that her father Pak Joon-chul played in it," Choe writes.

"After Ms. Pak's victory at the L.P.G.A. U.S. Women's Open in 1998 (during the last economic troubles of the Asian financial crisis), thousands of Korean parents signed their daughters up for golf lessons. Many were unfamiliar with the fine points of the sport, which is widely seen as a pastime of the wealthy, but they were transfixed by the story of how Ms. Pak's father forced her to practice her swings alone at night in a cemetery to bolster her self-confidence."

Will Kim have the same impact in figure skating?

"There is a pack mentality among mothers," one mother, Sun-Hee Choi, tells the newspaper. "It used to be golf, and then swimming and now it's figure skating. When my child can't speak English as well as her kindergarten classmates, I beat my chest in frustration and send her to extra classes. I sometimes stop and question whether I'm doing the right thing, but I find it difficult to control myself."

-- John Strege

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