2019 was also a year of the Korean Wave in international sports.
At the forefront are South Korean left-hand pitcher of Los Angeles Dodgers Ryu Hyun-jin and South Korean forward Son Heung-min of the Premier League’s Tottenham Hotspur.
Ryu, who started 29 games for the Dodgers last season went 14 and five with a league-leading two-point-32 ERA to go along with 163 strikeouts and 24 walks in 182-point-two innings.
The 32-year-old came in second place for the 2019 National League Cy Young Award, becoming the first major league pitcher of Asian descent to receive a first-place vote.
Ryu was also the National League starter at the All-Star Game and was the biggest name left in the pitching free agent market this winter. As of December 25, Ryub was close to signing a four-year contract work 80 million U.S. dollars with the Toronto Blue Jays, a deal which would make Ryu the highest-paid South Korean player in Major League Baseball history.
On November 7, Son broke the record for most European league goals by a South Korean player, scoring his sixth and seventh goal of the season in a Champions League group match against Red Star Belgrade.
Son's goals were the 122nd and 123rd of his European career, breaking Cha Bum-kun’s decades-old record of 121 for most European goals by a South Korean player.
During a match against Burnley in London on December 7, the 27-year-old scored his tenth goal of the season, sprinting some 70 meters past six defenders, later lauded as one of the “greatest” goals by the international media.
Son wrapped up the year by coming in 22nd place among 30 nominees in balloting for the annual Ballon d’Or recognizing the world’s best football players, the highest-ever ranking by an Asian player.
Staying in the world of football, South Korea finished in second place at the FIFA U-20 World Cup on June 15, following a three-one loss to Ukraine.
Although South Korea came short of winning its first title at the FIFA youth tournament, the national team enjoyed its best performance at a FIFA competition, surpassing its fourth-place finish in 1983 in Mexico.
Lee Kang-in of Valencia CF also became the first South Korean to win the Golden Ball award at the U-20 World Cup.
Photo : KBS News