The Most Famous

ATHLETES from South Korea

Icon of occuation in country

This page contains a list of the greatest South Korean Athletes. The pantheon dataset contains 3,055 Athletes, 31 of which were born in South Korea. This makes South Korea the birth place of the 27th most number of Athletes behind Greece and Romania.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary South Korean Athletes of all time. This list of famous South Korean Athletes is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of South Korean Athletes.

Photo of Hwang Young-cho

1. Hwang Young-cho (1970 - )

With an HPI of 52.42, Hwang Young-cho is the most famous South Korean Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 20 different languages on wikipedia.

Hwang Young-cho (born 22 March 1970) is a former South Korean athlete, winner of the marathon race at the 1992 Summer Olympics and 1994 Asian Games.

Photo of Viktor An

2. Viktor An (1985 - )

With an HPI of 52.16, Viktor An is the 2nd most famous South Korean Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.

Viktor An (Russian: Виктор Ан; born Ahn Hyun-soo (Korean: 안현수) on November 23, 1985), is a retired South Korean-born Russian short-track speed-skater. After competing for South Korea since childhood, in 2011 he became a Russian citizen and raced for the Russian team. One of the most accomplished short track speed skaters of all time, An won three gold medals and a bronze medal in 2006 Winter Olympics, becoming the most successful athlete there. He has also won three gold medals and one bronze medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics. An is a six-time Overall World Champion for 2003–2007 and 2014.After winning gold in Sochi, Ahn explained his reasons for joining the Russian team saying, "I wanted to train in the best possible environment and I proved my decision was not wrong." As expected, a gold-winning athlete leaving the national team caused public uproar in South Korea. However, it was aimed not at Ahn, but at the country's skating union. Most South Korean fans in a poll said they understood Ahn's decision. Ahn received the Order "For Merit to the Fatherland" Award 4th class with Russian President Vladimir Putin handing the state awards.Ahn was banned from participating in the 2018 Olympic Games in his native South Korea following a decision by the IOC amidst alleged Russia's sports doping scandal of 2016–2017. The IOC did not disclose the specific reasons but mentioned "lingering suspicions" about doping use.

Photo of Kim Young-ho

3. Kim Young-ho (1971 - )

With an HPI of 49.57, Kim Young-ho is the 3rd most famous South Korean Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Kim Young-ho (born April 9, 1971 in Nonsan, Chungcheongnam-do, South Korea) is a South Korean foil fencer. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, he won the gold medal in individual foil, defeating Ralf Bissdorf of Germany in the final. He became the first Olympic Champion in fencing from Korea, and the first Asian man to win an Olympic Gold medal in fencing. At the 1997 World Championships he had perhaps one of the most heroic losses in top level fencing. With approximately 2 minutes left in the final period, Kim was down 11-3 to Sergei Golubitsky of Ukraine. As direct elimination fencing bouts go to 15 touches, most fencers would presume Kim was about done and was fencing for pride. 8 touches later Kim had tied the score. He and Golubitsky (as Sergei stated on his "Golden Bouts" tape, "and now the nightmare begins....the comeback of Kim") traded touches until Kim finally lost 15–14. At la belle (tied for the last touch, 14-14), Kim almost pulled the win out, but his attack failed to register (although he had struck valid target) and Golubitsky dodged a bullet, allowing him the chance to win the bout. The bout is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HKfnJArUZw

Photo of Kim Jung-hwan

4. Kim Jung-hwan (1983 - )

With an HPI of 47.96, Kim Jung-hwan is the 4th most famous South Korean Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 17 different languages.

Kim Jung-hwan (Korean: 김정환; Hanja: 金政煥 ; born September 2, 1983) is a South Korean fencer. He was number 1 in the world in 2016 in sabre.

Photo of Kim Soo-nyung

5. Kim Soo-nyung (1971 - )

With an HPI of 47.46, Kim Soo-nyung is the 5th most famous South Korean Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 18 different languages.

Kim Soo-nyung (born April 5, 1971 in Chungcheongbuk-do) is a former member of the South Korean Olympic archery team in 1988, 1992, and 2000. She has earned a total of four gold medals at the Olympics, one for the individual event in 1988 and three for the team event in 1988, 1992 and 2000. She won a further silver medal in 1992 and a bronze in 2000, both for the individual events. She retired after the 1992 Olympics to marry and raise two children, resuming her training in 1999, in the lead up to the 2000 Summer Olympics.She competed at the 1986 Asian Games winning a gold medal in the team event and a bronze in the individual. She also won two consecutive individual and team world championships in 1989 and 1991.In 2011, Kim was declared the Female Archer of the 20th Century by the International Archery Federation (FITA).

Photo of Kim Jae-bum

6. Kim Jae-bum (1985 - )

With an HPI of 47.42, Kim Jae-bum is the 6th most famous South Korean Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 24 different languages.

Kim Jae-bum (김재범) (Korean pronunciation: [kim.dʑɛ̝.bʌm]; born January 25, 1985 in Gimcheon, Gyeongsangbuk-do) is a retired South Korean judoka. Despite being plagued with injuries throughout his career, Kim is known for dominating major competitions at the half-middleweight category (81kg)—particularly between his Olympic debut in 2008 and his 2012 Olympic finals rematch against Ole Bischof.Kim has had several nicknames, including "Man of One Arm Wins" for his successes through injury, "Korean Tiger" for his aggressive play and iconic status in South Korean judo, and "Energizer Bunny" for his quick and relentless style of judo.He was granted exemption from South Korea's mandatory military service in 2010, following his gold medal victory at the Guangzhou Asian Games.

Photo of Ku Bon-chan

7. Ku Bon-chan (1993 - )

With an HPI of 47.05, Ku Bon-chan is the 7th most famous South Korean Athlete.  Her biography has been translated into 20 different languages.

Ku Bon-chan (Korean pronunciation: [ku.bon.tɕʰan] or [ku] [pon.tɕʰan]; born 31 January 1993) is a South Korean recurve archer. He won an individual and a team gold medal at the 2016 Olympics and two team gold medals at the 2015 World Championships.

Photo of Jin Jong-oh

8. Jin Jong-oh (1979 - )

With an HPI of 46.75, Jin Jong-oh is the 8th most famous South Korean Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 25 different languages.

Jin Jong-oh (진종오; Korean pronunciation: [tɕin.dʑoŋ.o]; born 24 September 1979) is a South Korean sports shooter who competed at the 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. The only individual four-time Olympic champion in shooting, he is the most successful individual shooter at the Olympics, being the only athlete to have won three consecutive Olympic gold medals in an event (men's 50 metre pistol) in shooting. He holds the world record in both 10 metre air pistol and 50 metre pistol as well as the final world record in 50 metre pistol.

Photo of Kim Woo-jin

9. Kim Woo-jin (1992 - )

With an HPI of 46.62, Kim Woo-jin is the 9th most famous South Korean Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.

Kim Woojin (Hangul: 김우진; Korean pronunciation: [ki.mu.dʑin] or [kim] [u.dʑin]; born June 20, 1992) is a South Korean archer who first held the world number one ranking in 2011 and held the world record in men's individual recurve archery. He is a student, and lives in Chungju. He is right-handed, and uses 30-inch (76 cm) arrows and a draw weight of 46 pounds (21 kg). At the 2016 Summer Olympics. he won his first Olympic gold medal as a member of the South Korean men's archery team, who defeated the United States in the men's team archery final.

Photo of Song Dae-nam

10. Song Dae-nam (1979 - )

With an HPI of 46.54, Song Dae-nam is the 10th most famous South Korean Athlete.  His biography has been translated into 21 different languages.

Song Dae-Nam (Hangul: 송대남; Korean pronunciation: [soŋ.dɛ̝.nam]; born 5 April 1979 in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do) is a former South Korean judoka.Song rose to prominence when he won the gold medal in the middleweight division at the 2012 Olympics. He was then nominated as the flagbearer for Korea in the closing ceremony. He is best known as the head coach of the South Korea Men's National Team, having produced two world champions in his first year as head coach. Song moved up a weight class from half-middleweight to middleweight in 2012 after constant defeats to teammate Kim Jae-bum and inability to qualify for the Olympics in 2008.

Pantheon has 31 people classified as athletes born between 1970 and 1996. Of these 31, 31 (100.00%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living athletes include Hwang Young-cho, Viktor An, and Kim Young-ho. As of October 2020, 2 new athletes have been added to Pantheon including Sa Jae-hyouk and Kim Jang-mi.

Living Athletes

Go to all Rankings

Newly Added Athletes (2020)

Go to all Rankings