Report From Korea:
Webmaster Reports That Many Koreans Already Own One or More Pairs of Skates
South Korea only discovered inline skating a few years ago. But it embraced it with a passion that quickly pushed it to the forefront of the sport.
Within a few years, the country of 48 million was the site of huge and frequent inline marathons; its athletes were winning gold medals at the Inline World Championships; and it was hosting World Inline Cup events.
Not surprisingly, it also became a magnet for some of the world's skate luminaries, who like miners to the Gold Rush, moved to Korea to take part in the inline explosion. (Among them: K2 skate designer Jon Svensson, coach and former world record holder Jonathan Seutter, and custom boot maker Mike Miller.)
Boom Gone Bust?
But a few months ago, reports started to appear that the Korean boom had gone bust.
Skate makers, including Rollerblade and K2, started talking about "excess inventory issues" in Korea, meaning essentially that they weren't selling as many skates there as they had hoped.
And then, in the last few weeks, came reports of skate shops closing and dropping attendance in Korean inline marathons. Most recently, the Seoul marathon decided to extend its registration deadline after it failed to reach its goal of signing up 7000 skaters. (Last year, it reportedly signed up that number of skaters in just three days!)
The assorted reports have fueled concern about the health of inline skating in Korea, which for the last few years has been a bright spot for the sport.
So What Is Happening?
To try to get a better idea of the situation in Korea, we decided to send some question to the Korean skate enthusiast and webmaster JinWoo Lee.
JinWoo lives in Seoul, where he is a member of a skate club and runs a web site devoted to inline skating. (He has -- with our permission -- translated and posted several Planet interviews on his site.)
Fortunately, JinWoo's English is excellent, because our Korean is nonexistent.
Anyway, here's what JinWoo had to say ... (And thanks, JinWoo for your fascinating report!):
I am glad to be able to inform you about inline skating in Korea. I am surprised about the reports you've heard, although I've heard the same things here.
In my opinion, some of the reports are true, but others are only guesses and reflect only one side of the story.
It is true that many skate shops have closed and many more are in the process of shutting down.
Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson