Asian Darts

Darts Around Asia: South Korea

Hello everyone. You’re reading the first article in a series of articles about darts in Asia. I will try my best to write a piece on darts in as many Asian countries possible. It will be interesting for me to do research on this and see what I can find out! Hopefully players want to help out as well, so if you read this: please reach out to me if you’d like!

This article I’ll start with one of my personal favorites, South Korea. South Korea is very close to my heart and there’s plenty of talent there. So be sure to read on!

A Reum Shin and Hye Jin Choi
A Reum Shin (R) and Hye Jin Choi (L)

Softtip Tours

Like most Asian countries, in South Korea softtip darts is the more popular way of darts and there are two big tours a player can participate in: The VSL Soft Darts Professional Tour Korea, and the Phoenix PERFECT Korea tour.
The overall winner of the 2019 VSL Korea tour got an invite to SUPER DARTS, that was Choi Minseok. The Perfect Tour is often held during a weekend together with another tournament, most likely a Phoenix Cup.

Phoenix Summer Festival

One of the busiest annual softtip tournaments in South Korea is the Phoenix Summer Festival. Players from all over the world come to participate in this tournament. Also, PDC tour card holders can participate, because the rule that they can’t participate in streamed tournaments outside of the PDC does not count for soft tip tournaments. This makes the Phoenix Summer Festival a very interesting tournament, because in 2019, Jose de Sousa, Seigo Asada, Kwang Hee Cho and a lot of other players participated. Jose de Sousa and Seigo Asada fought a great battle where Jose proved to be an excellent soft tip player.

Steeltip

The first weekend of the Asian Tour in 2020 will be held in South Korea. There’s a weekend in South Korea every year, so the PDC seems to make an effort to increase the popularity.

There’s a couple of steeltip tournaments in South Korea or wherein South Korean players participate, most of them WDF ranked. In 2019 the WDF World Cup was played, and both a South Korean men’s and women’s team went to Cluj-Napoca in Romania to give the tournament a try. In 2021, this tournament will be held in Denmark, but in 2023 it will be held in South Korea, in Seoul. The TARGET Korea Open is also WDF ranked. According to the WDF website, only 13 women participated in 2019, and 97 men. Winners were Kwang Hee Cho and Choi Hye Jin. That number of participants shows steeltip isn’t very popular with the ladies yet. In 2018, the WDF Asia Pacific Cup was held in South Korea, with a South Korean winner as well: Choi Min Seok. The ladies event was won by the Japanese superstar Mikuru Suzuki.

The WDF has been working hard on their own big tournaments and on qualifying criteria. It has been said that the TARGET Korea Open will be a WDF ‘Gold’ category tournament from 2020 on.
Most tournaments in South Korea are held in the PDK Darts Stadium in Seoul. It’s amazing they actually have a darts stadium built there!

Players

Park Hyun Chul

When speaking of South Korean darts, Park Hyun Chul is probably the player who comes to mind for most of us. No wonder, because Park made the final of an Asian Tour in 2018, Asian Tour 2 in Seoul. He started off really well during that final against Seigo Asada, but in the end lost the battle 5-4. Park is definitely one of the better South Korean players on the circuit, playing the VSL Korean soft tip tour, as well as the ‘Soft Darts Professional Tour Japan’, sponsored by the company ‘DARTSLIVE’. Park has played a lot during ‘THE WORLD’ as well, and many of his matches can be found on YouTube.

Choi Min Seok

Park has been up against Choi MinSeok in most of the VSL Korea finals. Most of them were won by Choi. After four finals of the VSL Korea tour, Choi ended up with most points on the annual ranking, which earned him an invitation to SUPER DARTS. It’s an amazing achievement, because even Phil Taylor will participate in the SUPER DARTS… Just to state how highly players in Asia think of this tournament, and what an honor it is to be invited/earned a ticket. Choi Minseok also won the 2018 WDF Asia Pacific Cup men’s singles as I already wrote before. He won the final from later PDC World Championship participant ‘Ben Robb’ who lost to Ron Meulenkamp in the first round of the tournament.

Now, Park and Choi are definitely the best players on the VSLcircuit, but how is this on the PERFECT Korea tour?

Kwang Hee Cho

People who have read my articles before, or follow me on social media, know I think highly of Kwanghee for multiple reasons. First of all, Kwang has been full body paralyzed and fought his way to the top with darts. Kwanghee was also the first Korean TARGET player and the list of tournaments he won and television shows he appeared on is amazing.

In 2018, he won the annual ranking of the PERFECT Tour with a cracking 1780 points, where the number two on the ranking had 1174 points. In 2019 he won the annual ranking again, as well as 2017. His best result on the Asian Tour was in 2019, where he made the last 16 in Seoul but lost to an amazing Lourence Ilagan.

As if his career couldn’t be any more beautiful, Kwanghee was given a wildcard to the 2020 WDDA Winmau World Championship and with that he also participated in the Dutch Open Paradarts competition. He won both events, becoming the 2020 WDDA World Champion and the first South Korean World Champion in Darts.

Dutch Open Darts 2020 WDDA Winmau World Championship - Kwanghee Cho
Dutch Open Darts 2020 – Kwanghee Cho

Ladies

The best ladies are definitely Kim Areum, Choi Hye Jin and Hyelim Seong. As said before, soft tip darts is the most popular in South Korea and that’s also what these ladies are best at. Seong won last year’s Korean Cup during the Summer Festival by beating Shizuka Kondo and played a very close final against Mikuru Suzuki in the Taiwan Pro Ladies Premium Stage in 2018. I wrote a short piece on Areum Kim before, she’s proved to be a pretty good scorer but her doubling needs some improvement in steeltip darts. Choi Hye Jin won the TARGET Korean Open in 2019 and participates among the men in the VSL tour. She also was the runner up in the WDF Asia Pacific tour in 2018. Other good ladies in Korean darts are Yuhee Lee and YeonJoo Ro. Some South Korean ladies participate in the Asian Tour as well during the Seoul events.

Hyelim Seong

In addition, South Korea has a female commentator during matches streamed on VSL, both steel and softtip. To be honest, I envy every country that has a good female commentator who knows a lot about the sport.

Companies

I’ve already mentioned VSL (VersusLeague) as one important brand in South Korean darts. Besides VSL there are many Korean brands in darts like Bull’s Fighter, LULF, PDK and KDF. They each play their important part in Korean darts. TARGET is also represented in Korea, just like 8flight and Trinidad. Companies like OGN are doing their best to promote the sport by setting up big tournaments and televise these. Here’s an advertisement that OGN used for their Darts Championship and the reason I’m showing this here is because I think it’s inclusive and modern, something we need more.

That was it, hope you enjoyed reading more about South Korea! Also, if you like this piece, please like my FB-page and/or follow me on Twitter to stay in touch with updates and short news on Darts in Asia

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