Who’s the greatest Korean archer ever?

To celebrate the international circuit returning to the country of archery’s most successful nation – to Gwangju for the second stage of the 2022 Hyundai Archery World Cup – some of the top archers competing were asked one simple question:

“Who is the greatest Korean archer ever?”

“I need to say Ki Bo Bae,” said Dutch Olympic mixed team medallist Gaby Schloesser. “She’s such a star. She’s been one of the best archers in the world.”

James Woodgate couldn’t decide between three-time world champion Kim Woojin and the legendary Oh Jin Hyek, who was the first Korean man to win the Olympics. Brady Ellison said Oh, while Pierre Plihon and Felix Wieser were camp Woojin.

Nicholas D’Amour, like many of the younger archers on the field who witnessed the historic triple-gold last summer at Tokyo, went with An San.

Spanish Olympian and incumbent coach Elias Cuesta went Park Kyung Mo – who was actually on hand in Gwangju observing – the famous silver medallist from Beijing 2008, pre most of the current generation of athletes, known for his suave style and popped collar.

Brazil’s Marcus D’Almeida went with Park Sung-Hyun, Athens 2004 Olympic Champion and the first (and until recently the only) recurve archer to break 1400. A worthy choice given her status. Sung-Hyun, incidentally, was also in Gwangju – she’s the current coach of the Korean recurve women’s team.

None of the mentioned Kim Soo-Nyung.

Kim Soo-Nyung at the 1989 World Archery Championships.

Still the all-time Olympic medal table leader, Kim Soo-Nyung won individual and team gold on home soil at Seoul 1988, returned to take individual silver and team gold at Barcelona 1992 – then took a break to become a mother before coming back yet again, for Sydney 2000, and collecting a third team gold (and fourth Olympic gold overall) as well as individual bronze.

Fortunately, during the live Archery Show ahead of finals in Gwangju, former compound women’s world number one Nicky Hunt was on hand to set everybody straight.

“She’s probably the best of the modern era,” said Hunt. “She picked up six Olympic medals – four gold, one silver, one bronze – over three Olympic Games. There was no mixed team round back then remember.”

As well as back-to-back world titles in 1989 and 1991.

No other archer has been so successful for so long.

“Kim Woojin possibly, too,” added Nicky, adding some weight behind the current world number one. “There’s just so many medals he’s won already – but only Olympic team medals, not individual. For me, he's not in the same league as Soo-Nyung.”

Watch the full Archery Show Live from Gwangju below.

Korea’s best archers?

  • Oh Jin Hyek: The first man from Korea to ever win individual Olympic gold at London 2012.
  • Kim Woojin: As of 2022, a three-time World Archery Champion, three-time Hyundai Archery World Cup Champion and a member of back-to-back Olympic gold medallist teams at Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
  • Kim Soo-Nyung: The all-time Olympic medal table leader with four golds – including one individual – a silver and a bronze.
  • Park Sung-Hyun: The first recurve archer to break 1400 for the 1440 Round and Olympic Champion at Athens 2004.
  • Park Kyung-Mo: Three Olympic medals, including an individual silver, in the early 2000s.
  • An San: Nobody has won more gold medals at a single Olympics – she took all three available at Tokyo 2020 after the introduction of the mixed team event.
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