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Are Koreans bad at diving?

We’ve all heard of the Tom Daley’s and Michael Phelps’s of this world, but we seldom hear about the likes of Kim Kuk-hyang and Woo Ha-ram. Is there a reason for this? Well, yes – Probably because they’re distinctly average at watersports. So let’s have a look at if Koreans are bad at diving.


Diving isn’t the first sport you think of when you think about Korea. Football and baseball lead the way in popularity among the locals, however swimming isn’t too far behind. Those interested in swimming will also tend to dabble in a bit of diving too, which is why Korea have had some decent-ish talents over the years. Despite the relative popularity of aquatic sports in Korea, Koreans rarely win medals for diving at international events.

The first time a Korean qualified for the Olympic games were back in the 1960 games held in Rome. Lee Pil-Jung was a Seoul born diver who competed in the 10m platform event. It didn’t quite go to plan for him, he finished rock bottom out of 28 competitors and lost by a considerable margin too! Divers from South Korea have since participated in every Olympic games since, but none have even been close to a podium finish.

The majority of the success South Korea gets is through the Asian Games. Obviously a far inferior competition to the Olympics due to the quality of the opposition. South Korea have racked up a few medals in these games. Woo Ha-ram being the most successful of the bunch in recent times. The 22 year old picked up a haul of four medals on home soil in the 2014 games in Incheon, whilst winning another four medals at the 2018 edition in Indonesia. Other than that, not a great record on the whole is it?

The same can’t be said about the divers from the North though.

North Korea first participated in diving events at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. They sent four women to compete in the springboard and platform events. Kim Chun-ok was the pick of the bunch this time, as she managed to earn herself a spot in the second qualifying round in the platform event, before she was eliminated by much stronger competitors from the USA, China and Great Britain. In the coming years, North Korea started sending bigger teams of divers to the Olympics but as with the teams from the south, the results weren’t great.


Well, it’s safe to say divers from South Korea have continued to be dreadful at the Olympics. The best finish by one of their divers was in 2016, where Woo Ha-Ram finished a respectable 11th in the final elite rounds, having qualified through two qualifying rounds to get that far. In addition to this, Kim Su-ji recently made history by becoming the first female diver from South Korea to win a medal at the World Championships.

But other than that? Zilch! South Korean divers routinely struggle to even qualify for the latter rounds of competitions, resulting in having absolutely no chance of even seeing a podium.

So on the whole things might be looking somewhat better for the future with the performances of Woo Ha-Ram, but as it stands South Korea don’t even come close to competing at the elite level of diving. So it’s safe to assume the South Koreans are most definitely bad at diving!

North Korean divers have faired much better than their southern neighbors at the Olympics. North Korea have managed consistent top ten finishes, and have even won a bronze medal, albeit in the 2010 Youth Olympics. Their most recent showing at the 2016 Olympics was especially fruitful for the North Koreans. Kim Un-Hyang secured a very good 7th place overall finish in the 10m platform, whilst the duo of Pyongyang natives Kim Kuk-Hyang and Kim Mi-Rae agonizingly missed out on a podium finish in the synchronized platform, thus securing the DPRK’s and Korea as a whole’s best ever Olympic finish.

Away from the Olympics, in 2015 Kim Kuk-hyang became the first Korean to win a gold medal at the World Championships. Competing in the 10m platform, Kim Kuk-hyang defeated opposition from China and Malaysia to take the top spot on the podium! She went on to win another gold medal in the same event at the 2017 World University Championships in Taiwan. Kim Mi-rae and Kim Un-hyang also picked up a handful of medals in the same competitions.

For an insight as to why North Koreans might be so much better than their counterparts, we took YouTube star Simon Wilson into Mansu water park in Pyongyang to get a taste of the diving facilities for himself. You can check his video out here;


On the whole, you’d have to say yes. Zero podiums at the Olympic games and only a handful of decent finishes at lesser competitions makes the Koreans a pretty bad bunch of divers. There could be some glimmer of hope in the future though. In the upcoming Olympic games, South Korea and North Korea will come together and compete as a United Korea for the first time. Hopefully this can be a beneficial partnership for both sides, and who knows – we might see the next Tom Daley hailing from Korea!

Want to experience some diving in North Korea for yourself? Join us on our Liberation Day & Summer Tour where you’ll have the opportunity to visit the waterpark, as well as the famous diving platforms in the waters of Wonsan.

You can secure YOUR place now with no deposit, or you can take advantage of our Young Pioneer Tours Membership Program from as little as €60.

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