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The Backstory behind South Korea’s “Golden Archers”
Written by Ria Ju | Published. 2021.09.07 10:36 | Count : 1158

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics successfully ended, with South Korea winning 20 medals in total: six gold, four silver, and ten bronze medals.

Remarkably, four out of the six gold medals were won by the so-called “golden archers” of South Korea, proving the superb dominance of South Korea. South Korea has, in fact, kept the throne of the country with the world’s best archers for decades; for example, the national women’s archery team of Korea has never lost its gold medal since the 1988 Seoul Olympics up until now.

A photo of the Hyundai Department Store Archery Team members practicing. Photo Credit: Ria Ju

With the continued success of South Korean archery, the public’s interest snowballs not only in the event itself but also in the unrevealed backstories. To learn more about them, I visited the Suwon Archery Center and interviewed Ms. Eun Kyoung Lee, the current chief director of the Hyundai Department Store Archery Team. 

An interview with Ms Eun Kyoung Lee. Photo Credit: Ria Ju

As I entered the archery center, I was greeted by subtle sounds of arrows piercing through the tranquil atmosphere. I previously had only seen archery on screen, and wanted to investigate the event after taking interest primarily in the Tokyo Olympics. Off screen, I could feel the focused, controlled atmosphere of the archers.

Additionally, the opportunity to shoot arrows myself using amateur bows made me realize firsthand the amount of strength, stability, and concentration required for archers. 

In the following interview I conducted, Ms. Lee started by acknowledging the significant role of the Korea Archery Association in supporting the archers. She mentioned that the association always prepares archers thoroughly for the next Olympics as soon as the ongoing Olympics end.

In this year’s Olympics, the association constructed a new archery field, a carbon copy of Yumenoshima park, where the games will take place. As a result, while the vivid blue-colored floors of Yumenoshima Park distracted some archers from accurately spotting their targets, the Korean archers performed at their best, thanks to the similar blue grounds of the national field. 

Moreover, Ms. Lee emphasized the role of Eui Seon Jeong, the current chairman of the Korea Archery Association. “He is a devoted, encouraging patron of all Korean archers,” Ms. Lee recognizes. She took an example of two archers, Hye Jin Jang and Woo Jin Kim, who both ranked 4th in the national team selection process and thus were not able to enter the 2012 London Olympics.

After the warm-up match, the chairman sympathetically embraced them and provided incentives. Ms. Lee believes that this made their triumphant victories at the following Olympics, where the two archers returned with three gold medals. “Observing the caring actions of the chairman, I felt the sincere cordiality being conveyed to the archers.” Besides this, the generous chairman was recently highlighted for the electric cars and billion-wons of bounties handed to the medalists of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

A photo of the Hyundai Department Store Archery team members stretching. Photo Credit: Ria Ju

Yet, on top of all the support are the efforts of athletes and advisors. “As a former archery athlete and current advisor, I believe that although the outstanding skills and potentials of individual archers contribute to the perpetual success of Korean archery, their exceptional passion and endeavor to archery comes first,” Ms. Lee claims.

Through the years, the perseverance of founders of Korean archery actively researching and recruiting archers along with the accumulating experiences and consistent commitments of athletes and advisors all came together to produce the longstanding success. Interviewing two archers of the Hyundai Department Store archery team, Su Jeong Yu and Dasomi Jung, I noticed that each athlete’s personal development and resilience are also crucial in their successes.

This year, both archers were unfortunately not able to enter the Olympics and thus had to cope with the despair. Su Jeong recalled, “I was caught up in the thousands of ‘I should have’s directly after the match. I should have listened better to my coach… I should have concentrated better… I felt like I bumped into my stone-hard limits, and it really took me some time and effort to stop the depression from swallowing me up. The few days after the match were a nightmare.”

Yet, although both archers admitted that they were submerged in extreme depression then, they knew that they had to stand up again; they simply did not have the time to regret and cry over their pasts. “I realized that I still had so many opportunities left for me,” Dasomi said, “In fact, I considered the remaining disappointments as a motivation for me to work harder towards my goals.”

The archers also encouraged newbie archers, saying that “challenge is something that anyone with passion and determination can try.” Dasomi remarked, “A blazing bonfire can be ceased temporarily by a harsh shower, but it will eventually reignite as long as the embers are alive. I hope anyone with an aim would long maintain the embers in their hearts.” 

An interview with Su Jeong Yu and Dasomi Jung, two members of the Hyundai Department Store Archery Team. Photo Credit: Ria Ju

The legends of South Korean archery will carry on. “For future competitions, we need more,” Ms. Lee points out. “Current trends show that archery worldwide is becoming increasingly competitive, as more and more countries, such as Germany, Italy, the United States, or India, quickly catch up by improving their skills.

We, advisors, are shifting our focus to developing and applying novel scientific methods for the athletes to excel in any performance at any condition. I have certainty that Korea will maintain its pinnacle in archery in the far future too.”

Ria Ju (주리아)
Grade 11
North London Collegiate School Jeju

Ria Ju  hsr@dherald.com

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