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Korea Racing Association Wants Changes to Horse Racing

20 February 2003

SOUTH KOREA – As reported by the Korea Herald: "…In the West, horse racing has always been a strange mix of the upper and lower classes; booze ridden gamblers mingling with the Gucci wearing wealthy, and the biggest race days have always been more about being seen then actually betting. While events like the Grand National and the Gold Cup have become integral parts of their respective countries sporting calendars, horse racing in Korea has never quite garnered the same glamorous reputation.

"One group that hopes this will change is the Korea Racing Association (KRA).

"…Their pride and joy, and the current home of racing in Korea is the Seoul racecourse.

"…The complex itself is impressive, and being Korean, boasts the latest in hi-tech gadgetry. Plasma screens show countless replays, while all betting is computerized.

"…While some might see this as an advantage, the atmosphere was rather sterile with most of the clientele seemingly hardcore betters rather then day-trippers.

"…Despite the claims of the KRA that racing in Korea is a family affair, the crowd was 90 percent male, and of those, 90 percent were middle-aged.

"…Should horse racing remain at the top of the gambling industry in Korea, changes are going to have to be made. The singular nature of the sport, while admirable in places, does not always make for an exciting spectacle.

"According to Hak Soo-yeo, a KRA PR representative, changes will have to be made.

"`Casino's and things like motorboat racing are getting more popular,' he said. `Personally I think introducing steeplechase racing would add to the attraction, and keep horse racing popular.'

"Indeed it's hard to see the racing industry remaining at the top for long if changes aren't made. With an average age of about 50, the gamblers that support the racing industry aren't getting any younger and it's hard to see where the new blood is going to come from.

"The KRA plans to address this with an equine theme park being planned as well as five more racetracks all around the country

"…Whether this will get young people interested in the sport remains to be seen. At the moment the racing industry in Korea seems to be purely about betting, something that will have to change…"

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