Horse Racing in South Korea
Horse racing is often referred to as the Sport of Kings, and is a sport that can be traced back to ancient times. Chariot races have been documented during the time of the Romans, as well as in Norse mythology, but in South Korea horse racing was first sparked in 1898. It all started with an athletics day, when organizers thought it would be fun to let donkeys run against each other. The race was merely for entertainment, but during the 1920s horse racing and a betting system began to take shape.
The Chosun Racing Club, the first of its kind in South Korea, was established in 1922, and a year later parimutuel betting was introduced. This gave rise to racing clubs being permitted to own racecourses, and in 1928 the Sinseol-Dong Racecourse opened its doors for business. In order to keep all clubs operating under the same rules and conditions, the Chosun Horse Racing Authority was formed to regulate racing clubs and bring unity to horse racing in South Korea. It later became the Korea Horse Racing Authority in 1945, and is still supporting, developing and regulating the horse racing industry today.
During the war, which began in 1950, horse racing came to a complete stop as authorities seized racehorses for military purposes. Undaunted by this setback, the Korea Horse Racing Authority began construction on the Ttuksom Racecourse in Seoul. It was later relocated in 1989 to a state of the art facility in Gwacheon, but it assisted in keeping the sport of horse racing alive during dark times. South Korea is now home to three major racecourses, namely Busan Gyeongnam Race Park, Jeju Race Park and the Seoul Racecourse. The Jeju Race Park was opened exclusively for pony racing, while the Seoul Racecourse is probably the most famous race track in South Korea. Bustling with spectators, the Seoul Racecourse also has a separate foreigner’s lounge for visitors, fast food outlets and a fascinating Equine Museum that is filled with equine displays, artifacts and interesting stories.
Today, horse racing in South Korea is a lucrative and growing industry, with thousands of racing enthusiasts supporting their local racecourses everyday. With the introduction of televised horse racing, those who cannot make it to the tracks can still enjoy the thrill of live horse racing, from the comfort of their own home.