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What Is Korean Archery And How Is It Different?

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Tim Rhodes

Archery is an art or a competitive sport that involves the use of a bow to shoot arrows.

The word archery is derived from the Latin word Arcus which means a bow.

In ancient times archery was undertaken mainly to either hunt or indulge in combat.

Now, this practice has evolved and is considered a skill.

Any individual who takes part in such events is often called an archer.

If he/she has a deep interest in this matter, he/she is referred to as a Toxophilite.

Table of Contents

What Is Korean Archery And How Is It Different?

To have a better outlook on archery, one cannot help but mention Korean archery and its difference.

Korean Archery

Archery is often considered Korea’s national sport, but in reality, that title belongs to Taekwondo.

It is understood as the most popular sport in Korea and is considered the second country in its efficiency after the USA.

Korea has successfully dominated the current Olympic archery acquiring the maximum number of medals.

They have 39 Olympic medals, and all are in gold, along with every women’s event that has been organized.

Seo Hyang Soon became the first Korean to have reached the top Olympic podium in 1984 in archery, and since then, 15 gold medals have been awarded to Korean Archers in both individual and team events.

Athletes are often nervous while playing across a Korean Participant in various tournaments and events.

As the masters of target archery, Korea has an ancient connection with the bow and the arrow.


Korea seems to be blessed by the perks of archery.

It was a key element to have been used during the Three Kingdoms Period.

It has helped them secure their land from attacks from the North, the Chinese from the west, and the Japanese from the south and the East.

It was used primarily as a weapon until now.

To protect its mountain fortresses and strengthen its military forces, Korea has used the bow on multiple occasions.

During the 14th century, i.e., now known as the Chosun era, most of the soldiers were selected based on their excellence in archery.

It was assumed that a good archer is likely to rise higher in society and become a military officer.

Traditionally, archers would use the thumb draw while pulling the string right past the ear.

The target range earlier was around 145 meters, but now it’s mostly between 30 to 90 meters.

From then to now, Korean archers are the most trained and skilled archers around the world.

Korean Bow

Their bow is often referred to as the Korean Bow.

Koreans use two different types of bows.

One is the modern bow, and the other is the traditional bow or the Gakgung.

Gakgung refers to the nation bow and is built with various materials.
It is a water buffalo horn-based complex bow with its core made of bamboo.

This bamboo is also called the arrow bamboo.

The makers have to be very careful in selecting the type and age of the wood used to make the arrow.

This bow was intended to provide maximum efficiency and grip to eliminate the attackers even before they reach close.

All the parts of the bow are glued together.

It requires a thumb draw, which means that using a thumb ring while playing the sport is common.

This thumb ring is different from the ones used by other countries in terms of its availability for both males and females.

With such a glorious history, archery in Korea became such an important part of Korea that it led to various arrows’ invention.

One of the most famous arrows to be recognized is the Pyeonjeon.


Pyeonjeon is considered the most famous type of arrow in Korean Archery.

This arrow is termed as powerful and has secured the bow to save the country.

It is also considered the Korean Army’s secret weapon.

It’s small in size and is fired through a Gakgung.

Due to its size, it is almost impossible for the enemies to reuse the same arrow and allow the Korean Army to buy time to deliver the next shot with no haste.

The Pyeonjeon was highly useful in defending against the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1952 during the Imjin war.

How Is The Bowstring Different?

The one aspect that separates the Korean bowstring from the bows used by other countries, namely the Mongolian or the Turkish bows, is geometry.

One could be derailed by how small it looks, but deep down, this bow is very raw and highly efficient.

The extreme tightness could only be felt once the bow is unstrung.

End of Archery In Military

Korea wished to exclude itself during the 19th century from the other parts of the world but was soon under attack by the west.

Their initial effort to avoid trading had failed over time, and they were eventually forced to upgrade themselves into being modernized while trading with the west.

After this era, the Korean military was equipped with modern firearms on the battlefield, and the use of archery was forever lost.

With the end of archery in the military field, it has still maintained its importance in culture and athletics.

Why is Korea the best?

There are reasons why Korean archers are simply the best.

This includes their intense training, systematic coaching, and even structured support to help the archers reach the top.

In most other countries, archers initially engage in archery in the form of recreation and later take it up as a serious sport, but it is of utmost importance in Korea.

There is a lot of pride and elegance within Korean Archery.

They require no differentiation between the rich and the poor.

They invest a lot of money in setting up schools for beginners, who can train in the afternoons from good professional coaches.

Most of the students are highly prepared for the sport since they are trained within the school itself.

In many schools, students are trained so well that they could learn how to shoot a bow and its basics in just three months before firing a live round.

They do not believe in private coaching for only the specifics.

It is a sport suitable for all.

They depend on how well they are in procuring the required skills and are also expected to have a sense of representation.

The idea that ‘I can represent my country if I shoot a bow well’ is embedded within them.

Kim Sam-Soo, a coach and the former director of the Korean Archery Association, said in 2017, “Archery is a fierce competitor for middle and high school athletes.”

He further adds that “There are some players who are student geniuses who have been on the national team pretty much since high school.”

Korean athletes are provided with the best, full time, and first-class training, enabling them to develop more confidence over the other players.

They may not aim to win but will foreshadow their expertise on it.

The Practice

Korean archery has been considered one of the most difficult sports.
Along with its need to attain perfection, the training is longer and harder than any other participants in the world.

Their focus is extremely high.

So much that to increase their mental abilities, they watch videos on archery and enhance their learning.

The two-time Olympian Ko Bo Bae told the Korean Times, “Looking at the simulation on screen; I could improve my concentration by checking which motions I should take in each phase of the game.”

For them, the Olympic games are way easier than their national trials.

It is believed that the players throw a minimum of 100,000 arrows a year to represent themselves nationally.

Very few countable athletes train at this size outside of Korea.

Korean athletes are so efficient in their training that it is almost difficult to make a National team for their tournaments.

Archers use many visualization techniques with unloaded bows.

This helps them critically analyze their moves and how well they have been or could have done.

The Trials

The selection process is termed as the hardest part in Korea compared to any other country.

The best candidate to be a part of the national team may have to survive with consistency for as long as seven months.

No tournament can go badly; if it does, the archers don’t have a way to redeem themselves.

The toughest trial takes place in March, which adds the best 24 athletes to a group of 16 already existing from last year in a week.

This group then undergoes rigorous training full time in Jincheon with the National team coaches.

The experience afforded by these trials is very advantageous not only in terms of the sport and its efficiency but also the prior knowledge of the various skills required to be the best.

It reaches out as a learning objective while the athlete is actively in the field.

The Selection Process

After the eight best archers are selected, they are further divided into two groups, A and B.

The top four contestants officially compete in World Cups and other important worldly events, while the bottom four are awarded a consolation prize of participating in the Annual Championship.

Every participant is expected to follow the rules and regulations of the game.

Any manipulation of any sort by any athlete is thoroughly discouraged.

There are 28 recurve men’s and 29 recurve women’s teams in Korea.

Korean Pro Team

The dominance of Korean archery at International levels is mostly because the primary reason is funding.

It is believed that archery equipment is very expensive.

A single arrow could cost at least $40.

Thus, when the government funds archery, the archers are fully invested in molding their craft.

The Korean government provides systematic funding that helps more than 130 full-time athletes to continue to pursue their training as Archers.

Local or private schools or Universities mostly sponsor funding.

These teams are selected through the schools or Universities they belong to.

The total number of professional archers are less in Korea because they filter out only the best.

Thus, the athletes start participating from school and keep playing unless they are eliminated.

They do not have a specific academy to enroll themselves; rather, they are trained solely to participate in competitions.

The real secret of Korean archery is the Korean Tax System.

The government implies a specific tax system to regulate the smooth running of archery as a sport.

Winning the game and Prizes

Being an Olympic Archer in Korea can considerably upgrade an athlete’s life.

If won, there could be a lot of concessions involved.

In 2014 Asian games in Incheon, the Korean Archers and their coaches have collectively received a sum of 880 million won which is around $500,000 in an event sponsored by Hyundai.

In this game they won a total of five Gold, three Silver and a Bronze medals.

The maximum rate during that time was around 70 million won for the Gold medal, for Silver it was 60 million won and for Bronze it was 50 million.

Other Reasons Korean Archery Training Is Different

Korean archery not only dates back from the early ages but is of primary importance.

Archery is a part of Korean education as well.

It is taken seriously enough and is believed to have achieved a dedicated two hours each day in schools.

The general public can’t have access to this game in the professional clubs.

It is solely made for tournament purposes and is considered as an Elite game.


Korea believes in the best coaching.

Coaches start training from the beginning of high school and college.

They believe that the archer needs to develop a bond and team between the bow and the arrow.

This shall only be achieved with a higher range of daily training.

The only aim they have while training is to make sure that they make it to the professional team, and if they achieve the highest excellency, they will make it to South Korea’s national team.

There is a complete competition that goes on, and the archers often take part in World Archery and Olympic stages.

Making a National team is difficult because the performance is judged by a range of full-time students, professional athletes, sponsored and even governed by various schools or companies.


Korean Archers not only play the game rather they also study it.

In the 1980s the Americans and the Russians were the top Archers in the World.

Their approach towards the sport was primarily based on their own techniques of timings, line, and even repetition.

It is believed that a good technique can be developed if the fundamental techniques are clear and understood.

There is a continuous practice that takes place where the trainer is made to bow without shooting.

Some archers also use mirrors in order to track their performance.

Korean Archery Association

Korea organizes the Idol Stra athletics Championship every two years on their Thanksgiving and their lunar new year.

They have a Korea Archery Association which is a member of the World archery association in the Republic of Korea.

It was founded in 1922 and was later affiliated to the World association in 1963.

It is the national representative body for archery in Korea.

The KAA has been organizing multiple trials after it got separated from the Traditional Archery Association in 1983.

Earlier the focus of the selection was based only on efficiency in Archery but now over the period of time and with multiple trials, selection is expected through various manners, like physical and mental fitness, leadership, etc.

Currently, the Korea National Sports University and Chungju City are the only two clubs that run all the four disciplines in their teams- Men, Women, Recurve and Compound.

All the other clubs focus on either any one or two or three.

30% of the KAA budget actually comes from the Olympic Committee.

Korea vs. Other Countries

Korea is not the only country to have been spending so much on Archery.

Americans Brady Ellison’s recently joined hands with the United States Olympic Committee in order to build a $14m, 40,00 square foot, state of the art Archery field house in Chula Vista at the United States Olympic Training Centre.

There is a prize money of $1m to the athletes in Archery in India for Olympic gold.

Many nations are thoroughly supported by their government for the Olympic games.

The highest bidding used to be by Singapore with an offer of around a million Singaporean dollars if an Olympic gold medal is won.

Then came Malaysia with a million dollars to provide for the Gold medal.

In Korea, an Olympic Gold medal can help you earn a lifetime stipend.

These pensions were earlier cumulative until lately when Kim Soo Nyung won three gold medals.

Multiple Facilities

In 2018, after South Korea was awarded the Winter Olympics, a large reorganization took place of the Olympic sports.

The training center for the National Archery team athletes shifted from Taerung on the outskirts of Seoul to a larger multi-sports complex in Jincheon.

Being the highest Olympic medal receivers and compensations, the Archery team got the best treatment and facilities available along with the indoor range.

The equipment and the facilities are such that it almost feels like science fiction made to acquire the members of the National team.

They have a separate space all to themselves while the compound team is provided with a different space in the same sports center.

These facilities are provided in order to maintain efficient performance by the Archers in the Olympic games.

Modern Developments

After an inspection that took place after the Rio games in 2016, it came to notice that the sports center lacked in providing a space to relax for the athletes.

There were no housing arrangements done for them and the players were struggling with food and humidity.

This further developed a different plan where the KAA rented a separate garage and installed a proper facility with a high-end air-conditioned camper van equipped with proper food, beds, sofas, TV, and a Kitchen.

This project was so intense and it required a huge amount of funds to be utilized in order to make it a success.

Archery is still one of the most entertaining sports in Korea.

The training of the participants is so fierce and tough.

It takes more than ten hours to train for being an elite performer.

Final Thoughts

Korean Archery is the most renowned and important sport in Korea.

It is not just about being a skilled player.

It is a matter of pride and elegance.

Archery is now a part of their life and their culture.

The Archers train themselves seriously and for long hours.

There are a lot of ways that archery can be introduced or practiced.

Many countries have their own ways of attaining perfection.

We hope you enjoyed this article on Korean archery and how it’s different.

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