The K League and the Duality of Glocality: Men’s Professional Football in South Korea, 1983–2017

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Eunah Hong Ewha Womans University

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What happens when modern sports systems in noncore sports nations have undergone extended globalization? In this article, I draw on glocalization theory, particularly Roland Robertson and Richard Giulianotti’s “duality of glocality” to explore the historical developments of the K League, South Korea’s men’s professional football league, launched in 1983. There are many reasons the K League has not yet firmly established its status: (a) the league imposed continuous rule changes on foreign field players while banning foreign goalkeepers, (b) the league introduced a distinct competition structure partially adopted from its Western counterparts, (c) a supporter culture was established which has a similar outlook to that of other supporter cultures but it had a different internal structure, and (d) the league produced media content reflecting local viewer needs while maintaining a structure similar to Western media formats. The notion of a two-step glocalization, the process of heterogenization followed by homogenization with other cultures based on the things that were already heterogenized for a lengthy period, is used to advance the debate on glocalization and to better understand the reasons for the failure to attract K League spectators since its establishment in 1983.

Hong (unahong@ewha.ac.kr) is with the Division of Kinesiology & Sport Studies, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Republic of Korea.